Warning this chapter has not been seen by my editor. All mistakes are my own and I apologize in advance.
Shambling out like wounded soldiers from a war, Dominick and Killian left me to face Quintus alone. They had been enemies, now they were brother in arms and I had come to love them both. It might not have been a war, but we had been prisoners. We had worked together to keep each other safe and tonight we were free. After one quick and bloody battle, the queen of darkness was dead. I had drained her magical essence and lopped off her head for good measure. I had no regrets for what I had done. She had tortured her own people and killed my mate. If anything her death was far too swift and she suffered not nearly enough.
The only pang of guilt I felt was over the death of her son. Conal had been a victim too. He had been born and raised while imprisoned. She tried to raise him to be just as evil and twisted as she was, but only succeeded in creating a sad confused man with the mind of a child. A broken boy who ached to have someone to love him.
Despite all that, she was still his mother and he had loved her. When he saw me kill her he attacked me. True to his word Kael, king of the Slaugh came just in time to save me, killing Conal in the process. Her people and her son were all just fodder for her cruel and sadistic pleasures.
Killing her had freed both the light and dark fae from her brutal rule but it wasn’t likely they were going to be grateful. Mab might have been a mad evil bitch, but she had kept order and she was fae. Now that job was on my shoulders. The shoulders of a human who had only lived a tiny spec of time compared to those I had to rule. The shoulders of someone who had never even been class president let alone a queen of an ancient race. To say I wasn’t feeling up to the task was an understatement of the century.
King Kael, the ruler of the powerful Slaugh, was going to keep the peace physically, but I had to reunite them. I had to make them see that what they were doing to each other was only going to lead to their destruction and maybe even the end of earth. I had to help them find a way to work together. They had been feuding since before people populated the earth. No problem right? Easy peasy.
The reality of the situation punched me in the gut and opened a very firmly closed triple locked door. One I had slammed shut and locked to save my sanity, but now terror crept in and sat down, making my body go cold and numb. Panic gripped my heart and sped it up, then seeped into my lungs so I couldn’t get enough air. I was dying. I had to be. Then, just when I thought I was gasping for my last breathe, the fear slowly faded and I found myself with my forehead pressed to the cold floor, gasping for breath, finger tips pressed into the stone as I tried to gain control of my body. I wasn’t just up shit creek without a paddle, I had no canoe and I was wearing lead shoes.
Reality was setting in and it was big, bad and scary as fuck. I was now Queen of the Fae. Little old Cassandra Joan Myles from Halifax, Nova Scotia was going to reign over people who had been alive since before we had discovered fire and as a race have existed long enough ago they could have ridden a dinosaur. The good news was it would look spectacular on my curriculum vitae, the bad news was if I didn’t do a good job there might not be anyone left alive when they called my references.
I shook my head, trying to clear my mind of all impossible thoughts. The time I had allotted for a breakdown was coming to a close. I had to gather myself. Quintus would be here soon and I had to have my wits about me. He was going to barge in here to rescue me from things I didn’t need rescuing from and wanting to punish a man I had promised to protect. I wasn’t the same Cassandra and Killian wasn’t the same man who had kidnapped me. I had saved myself this time and I wouldn’t let him harm a man I pledged to keep safe.
I tried to smile but my lips were stuck together with dried blood. My cheek was swelling and now that the adrenaline was starting to fade the pain was settling in. Quintus would be here and he would be fury and vengeance. I had to feel like his equal so he would listen to me.
As if on cue in the distance an explosion made me jump back to my feet. The adrenaline and power from the night was fading, but there was still a little coursing in my veins. I would need it. My body screamed to sit down, but I had to meet Quintus on my feet. I squared my shoulders and straightened my back.
The explosions got closer and closer. Room by room he searched for me leaving destruction in his wake. I could hear their boots echoing in the hallway. This time the sound of splintering wood came from next door, the impact almost knocking me off my feet. I backed up and braced myself for what was coming.
Time slowed down allowing me to take in every detail. The oak door shattered into a million pieces, turning each splinter into a tiny weapon. I watched as each piece flew through the air. I turned my head away just before the tiny wooden shards began to pierce my body. Dust and debris clouded my sight and when it cleared Quintus stood in the doorway.
He was beauty and horror married in one body. A fallen angel back from battle. Perfect skin, full lips, beautiful eyes, but he was also a blood coated, wild eyed, fanged creature radiating enough power to bring this building down. He was once the only person who made me feel safe and now it was all I could do not to run screaming from the room. The instant he saw me, all that force and all that ugliness folded neatly back inside him. So quick and so complete was the transformation that it was easy to convince yourself that you had never seen it at all.
That was the ultimate danger of a man like Quintus. He could be both. He could be gentle, caring, loving, but that was only the surface. An angelic façade that hid what lay underneath, a wild beast pacing in his cage, waiting for the opportunity to be let out. He still looked human, but that was the bait that drew you in. Gave you a false sense of security. Even the gentlest beast will bite under the right circumstances.
“Cassandra.” He ran to me, pulling me close into his chest. I felt him bury his face in my hair. “I… I thought I might never see you again. I should know better by now. You always come back to us.”
I held back an unexpected tear. I wasn’t coming back, not this time. “I’m fine, really” He was holding me gently. His concern was genuine, but it wouldn’t last long. Once I told him what I had done and what I had promised that monster inside would once again be straining for control.
“I thought I lost you. When we figured out where Killian had taken you we feared the worse.”
I gently pushed on him and he let me go looking a little hurt. Now was not the time to weaken. I had to make him see what needed to happen and he would exploit any weakness in my resolve to get his own way.
“I feared the worst too, but I decided killing Mab was a much better outcome.” I laughed nervously. “It seemed like a much better plan.”
His eyes went wide and now it was his turn to take a step back from me. I thought I detected a tiny bit of fear, but maybe that was just wishful thinking. If I could make a powerful creature like Quintus fear me even for a second then maybe killing the wicked witch had been enough to earn the fae’s respect.
“I knew you could do it Goldilocks. You’re a survivor.” Lucius pushed past his father and rushed towards me, crushing me to his giant chest. I slipped my hands around him exhaling for what seemed like the first time in forever. I wanted to stay in his strong arms, they felt like home, but I could feel Quintus’ eyes on us.
The warm smile turned cold and the look he gave me left no doubt in my mind that he saw how I felt for his son. Any hope I had changed my mind about being with him died in that moment.
“It seems we rushed here for nothing.” His tone was clipped. He wasn’t even trying to hide his anger.
“Father, would you rather she not survive? All that training. She used what we gave her and did the impossible. You said yourself that Mab was the most powerful fae beside the Slaugh.” Lucius was beaming with pride. I gave him a small smile before I turned back to Quintus.
“I’m sorry if I inconvenienced you Quintus. If it makes you feel any better I was injured in the fight.”
My sarcasm rolled right off his back. He continued as if I hadn’t spoken. “When I realized you had been taken, I feared the worst and now I feel a little foolish. I gathered all my best men for an epic battle that you had single handedly already won.”
“I’m sorry I’m not at the mercy of that sadistic hag so you could sweep in here and play the hero.”
His eyes glowed and they never left mine. He was pissed. “Don’t take a tantrum Cassandra, you know I don’t want you to be at her mercy. I hate it when you act like spoiled brat.”
I didn’t like being spoken to like a child. “Good because I’m not. I walked right up to the Queen of Darkness and drained her of all her magic and then just to make sure I never had to see her again I chopped off her head. It was really very cathartic. I saved the day this time. I guess you’ll just have to learn to take turns.”
I knew I had crossed a line as soon as I had said it. I had wanted to be firm, but instead I was hostile and had taken things too far. He had a vision of how this was going to go and it couldn’t have went worse. His damsel in distress had already slayed the dragon and she had claws of her own.
Quintus’ response was a feral smile. His perfect teeth gleaming from a face covered in blood and guts. My whole body turned cold and numb. I had to supress a scream. I knew he had killed before, but I never thought I would see my own death in his beautiful cerulean eyes. It felt like forever we stared at each other, then he turned back to his men.
“Fear not gentlemen, it’s not a total loss. Every dead fae is a good fae and we killed quite a few on the way here didn’t we?” They all laughed obediently. I knew some of the men he had with him and they wouldn’t look at me. Some of them I had talked to daily. Now they were on the other side.
He slapped the nearest vampire on the back like they had just won some sort of game. “I still get to collect Killian too. I have thought of little else. All the ways I’m going to make him pay for what he has done and what he has tried to do. He will wish he had died, but I won’t let him, not for a very long time.”
When he turned back to me he had his vampire mask in place. Calm and serene, he was shutting me out. He went from happy to see me to showing me how little I meant to him under a minute. If he was trying to hurt me, he was doing a very good job. It broke my heart. We had been tied together in so many ways. Saviour, friend, family, mentor, boss and he had severed them all. My ballast, my rock and he was cutting the strings and setting me adrift.
“You can’t have Killian.” I cursed the cowardly crack in my voice. So much for being tough.
Quintus threw back his head and laughed. “Who’s going to stop me and why would anyone want to? He kidnapped you, he brought you here to be at the mercy of a mad woman who killed your precious mate.”
Now he was just being an asshole and that gave me the anger I needed to stand up to him. “Yes he did, but he also made up for it. He kept me safe and he helped me kill Mab. I can’t let you have him. I gave him my word.” Every intelligent cell in my body was telling me to run and hide. I told them all to shut up and stood my ground.
“You have little choice. He took what was mine and he has to pay for that. He’s a traitor Cassandra, a little mongrel mutt who I took under my wing and he bit be in the ass to thank me for my trouble”
“Killian is staying here with me and he is under my protection. He kidnapped me and I know that caused you pain, but he’s made up for that. He’s not the same person he was and he’s truly sorry.” He took a step closer and I stood my ground.
“Who do you think you are little girl that you can tell me what I can and cannot do?”
“I’m the new Queen of the Fae.”
He made a show of laughing extremely hard. I wanted to make him see how much of an arse he was, but he was enjoying his roll as asshole far too much. “You are Queen of the fae? A human, a weak little girl who hasn’t had any other job, but my assistant. Is the sky purple and the moon made of cheese as well?”
There was a time, when that little speech would have left me dissolved into a blubbering mess. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of knowing how much he had hurt me. I straightened my spine and looked him square in the eye. “As of right now I’m just as immortal as you and I might not be as strong or as powerful as you, but I’m not worried, my champion will keep me safe.”
His eyes were two silver slits. They burrowed into me, driving his anger inside. “Who is this champion of yours? Killian? I could break him like a twig.”
Quintus towered over me, pure power pouring off him singeing my skin. This man was a stranger to me. I backed up a little and ran into a solid surface.
“I am her champion dead one. Would you like to test me?”
Oh this wasn’t going to be good. Quintus wasn’t used to being challenged. King Kael stood above us both. His physical presence was enough to make the other vampires back up. To his credit, Quintus stood his ground, but his eyes widened and his face dropped for just a second before his mask was back in place.
“You are Slaugh.” It wasn’t a question it was a statement.
“Yes, I am the King of the Slaugh to be exact. My name is Kael.” I felt his strong hand on my shoulder and I immediately relaxed.
Quintus looked back and forth between the two of us. I really thought he might bolt from the room. The king of the jungle now felt like a helpless mouse and I’m ashamed to say it felt good to see.
“Jesus Christ Cassandra, I’ve never seen anyone like you. Fuck me, every otherworldly creature you come in contact with wants to rescue you, fuck you or kill you.” He looked wearily at Kael. “I have wanted to do all three myself.”
It didn’t shock me he had thought of killing me. I’m sure it would have simplified his life numerous times over the years. “I went up against the Queen of Darkness and if I had any chance of coming out on top of the shit pile I was in, then I needed help. I made a deal with the Kael. I kill the queen and he makes sure the other fae keep the peace until I can bring light and dark together to rule as one.”
“Well its lucky you are immortal then, because you’ll need an eternity to complete that task.”
“I did the best I could to save my life.” Why couldn’t he see that I only did what I needed to do.
“You honestly didn’t trust me to come and rescue you?”
He was hurt. “I knew you would try, but things seemed so impossible.”
“Impossible for me, but not for you?”
“You know that’s not what I meant. You…” I tried to take his hand and he pulled away.
“No worries Cassandra. I see you have everything in hand. We’ll be out of your hair as soon as I go have a little chit chat with my former protégé.”
He cut me off by putting his finger to my lips. I could feel the anger building inside me. “Relax Queen Cassandra, I won’t kill him while he is here on your sovereign soil, but I do have to let him know, that if he puts one Irish fucking toe outside the fae door he is fair game. Consider it a coronation gift.”
I relaxed a little. “Thank-you Quintus… for everything.” Despite how things ended or his motivation for all the things he had done for me, he still had saved my life. Knowing that parting ways was for the best didn’t make it any easier.
“No need Cassandra.” He turned to Lucius. “I’ll assume you will remain here until Cassandra saves the day again and gets you the blood you need.”
“Yes Sire, I will be in touch as soon as I know anything.” They hugged each other and Quintus whispered something in his ear. Lucius hung his head.
“Then I am off. I apologize gentlemen,” he signaled for the other vampires to follow him. “I guess we weren’t needed after all.”
They followed him from the room and I was left with Kael and Lucius.
“Will you be okay now little queen? I will stay, but if you feel you are safe I have things to attend to.”
“Yes Kael, thank-you.” He was gone as soon as I said it.
Lucius opened his arms and I didn’t move towards him. I wanted to. I ached to, but something made me stop. He wasn’t mine to have and never would be. The realization tore a hole in my heart. He had been with Quintus for over a thousand years and I had no right to tear that apart. If we were together there was no question that Quintus would never stand for it. I had been naïve to think otherwise.
Lowering his arms he slummed into a chair. He looked every bit the soldier he was. He looked exhausted, mentally and physically. I wanted so badly to have his arms around me, but seeing Quintus’ reaction tonight, cemented my belief that he would never allow us to be happy together. There was no point destroying their 1000 year relationship over something that would never last.
“Please don’t hate him Cass. You broke his heart and hurt his pride. You can’t expect him to still run around after you like he did.”
“Fuck-you Lucius. I never asked for Quintus to do that.”
“You didn’t discourage it either.” His square jaw was set, he was waiting for me to challenge what he said.
“It wasn’t an ego thing or because I wanted him to run around after me. I truly love him and for a long time I needed him badly. I was only 19 and he was the only person I had in my life besides Declan. He was family to me. I needed that. Seeing my parents ripped apart broke me for a very long time. When they took my magic that hole became a bottomless pit. I was grabbing everything I could to fill that up so I could stop feeling that horrible ache of being alone.”
I started to pace the room. It was hard to admit to being a person who had used others, even if I didn’t know I was doing it at the time. When I left Halifax behind I left my best friend. She would have done anything for me. She stuck by me and saved me. I missed her, but she was also so caught up in what happened with my parents and losing my magic that thinking about her was too painful. I think back and I know I used her. I didn’t mean to, but I did.”
“I’m not a very good person sometimes. I’ve ended up hurting those who love me so I can feel better. I’m just a broken little girl sometimes, I scream to have someone love me and then I run from it because I know it will only end up hurting me.” I was crying so hard now I couldn’t speak. Only jagged sobs squeezed through gasps of breathe. I had been ashamed of what I had done. Speaking if it was like pulling out an arrow, it hurt keeping it in everyday, but ripping it out was almost too much damage to bare.
Lucius walked over and slowly put his strong arms around me, I sunk into him, taking the comfort I knew I didn’t deserve. He smelled of sweat and blood and it spoke to my bizarre life that those two scents gave me comfort. He just held me while I cried and even after when I had no more tears left and no more voice to make a sound.