The Kingmaker Chronicles, #3
Publication date: January 2, 2018
The riveting conclusion to The Kingmaker Chronicles!
GODS. I’M AN IDIOT.
Without Griffin—and apparently a few meddling Gods—to push me along, I’d still be telling fortunes at the circus, lying about my past, ignoring my future, and living as far away from my tyrant mother as humanly possible.
True understanding thuds into place. Hope isn’t just an abstract concept; it’s me. Flesh and blood me. Griffin knew it all along. Probably everyone did. I’m an idea in human form.
I have the power of the Gods at my fingertips.
The only thing ever stopping me has been me.
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Flynn’s jaw hardens. “You’re putting words in my mouth again.”
“Am I?” Jocasta smiles vaguely and without humor. “I guess you talk to me so little, I’ve started to invent.”
Flynn freezes, staring at her. Emotional conflict makes him shut down completely. With Jocasta, anyway. He’ll get into a roaring good fight with me.
“Cat and Griffin—they listen to people. Take advice,” he finally says in a low, almost toneless voice. “Cat was Griffin’s advisor at first. In a way, she still is.”
If you ask me, Griffin’s the sage one, but Jocasta eventually nods, conceding the point. “I’ll think about it,” she says.
“Thank you.” Flynn seems to relax. “Get yourself a guard as well,” he adds.
“I can take care of myself.”
“I could take care of you better,” he mutters irritably.
Jocasta grips the edge of the table like it’s the only thing keeping her upright. Or like she might heave the whole thing up and over in a fit of rage. One or the other. I can’t tell. When Flynn realizes what he just said, or rather how it could be taken, he pales until his shock of bright-red hair is his only color.
“I mean…” He clears his throat, looking up, around, anywhere but at her. “I mean you’d be twice as safe with a warrior guarding you. Me. Or someone else.”
Jocasta slowly uncurls her fingers from the table. “Someone else?”
Flynn frowns. “I’m leaving today. I won’t be here. You fought well in the arena, but we were all there. That doesn’t mean you’re ready for this.” He waves his hand in an all-encompassing gesture. “Everyday danger? The insidious kind? It doesn’t always come at you with a sword and a snarl. You might not see it coming.”
That vague smile is back on Jocasta’s lips, the one that speaks of utter disappointment. “So that’s what you want? Some man following me around day and night? Sleeping outside my bedroom door? Taking walks with me? Guarding me in the bathhouse?”
Flynn doesn’t answer. He’s too busy grinding his molars to dust.
“Well, I won’t do it,” Jocasta says. “I’m in a fortified castle and don’t plan on leaving it. There are plenty of guards, high walls, and beyond them, there’s a constant, swelling crowd that seems to genuinely love us. I’m not in any danger.”
Flynn scoffs. “There’s always danger. And it’s most dangerous when you don’t expect it. You can’t let your guard down, Jo, especially while we’re away.”
Jocasta pushes the soggy, herb-soaked cloth farther down the table, wiping up a spill. When there’s nothing left to keep her busy, she finally looks up at Flynn.
“Don’t worry about me. Worry about yourself.” She shifts from foot to foot, looking uncomfortable. “I certainly do.”
Flynn leans in, his hands braced on the table again. Their eyes meet. “You do?”
Jocasta swallows so hard I can see it from here. Softly, she says, “You know I do.”
Flynn’s gaze drops to her mouth. Jocasta’s lips part, and her tongue darts out to wet them. He targets the movement with his eyes, tilting his head slightly and suddenly looking like a hungry and very focused predator. She sways toward the man she’s loved for so long, slowly closing the distance across the worktable. Flynn doesn’t back off for once, and I start to feel like the worst sort of thrill seeker, because my heart is pounding for them, and I can’t look away.
Do it. Kiss her. Claim her. It’s all she wants.
Flynn’s head drops a slow inch. Jocasta tilts hers up.
This is finally happening!
Bellanca charges into the kitchen through a side door. Flynn and Jocasta jump apart. I jump, too, my hand flying to my chest where my heart starts kicking like a deranged donkey. Everywhere Bellanca goes, she goes like a bloody tornado. A bloody flaming tornado.
“What in the Underworld is that awful smell?” Bellanca waves her hand in front of her nose, looking at Flynn and Jocasta like it’s probably them. Then she storms over, peers into Jocasta’s bowl, and scowls. “What’s that?”
“It’s going to be a sleeping draught,” Jocasta says tersely.
Bellanca wrinkles her freckled nose. “Who for?”
“For me,” Jocasta answers from between gritted teeth. She’s usually friendly to Bellanca, or at least neutral, so I know her crossness comes from being interrupted before her first kiss ever, and that from the man she’s been waiting for for years.
Bellanca huffs. “You can’t be that stupid.”
Flynn’s brown eyes narrow. The look he turns on Bellanca is truly terrible, but she doesn’t seem to notice.
Jocasta takes a slow breath, her expression suddenly such a careful mask of politeness that I have no doubt she’s erupting underneath. “Excuse me?”
“Why would you want to sleep that heavily? Only an idiot would do that.” Bellanca looks genuinely confused. As usual, she’s oblivious to anyone’s reaction to her…forthrightness.
“Do you suggest I sleep with one eye open?” Jocasta asks coolly. “Or possibly not at all?”
Bellanca reaches between them and grabs an apple that somehow escaped the splattering of herbal sludge. “Good idea.” As she straightens, she knocks Jocasta’s bowl over, giving it a hard enough shove to dump it on the floor. The earthenware vessel shatters into tiny pieces, hopelessly contaminating the concoction.
Jocasta’s mouth drops open.
Bellanca winks. “Eyes open.” She crunches into her apple as she moves backward in a tinkle of gold bangles and a froth of sky-blue skirts.
Flynn steps after her, his voice lowering in pitch. “Did you just threaten her?”
Bellanca stops halfway across the kitchen, looking increasingly surly. She dabs a fingertip to her lips, wiping off a drip. “I’m trying to protect her.”
“Do you know something?” Flynn growls, stalking forward until they’re only a pace apart.
Bellanca takes another bite and then shrugs. “I know lots of things.”
“Like what?” Flynn demands.
“Like potions such as that one are better left alone.”
Jocasta stiffens. “I know what I’m doing. I’m not likely to overdose.”
Bellanca shakes her head. “That’s not what I mean.”
“Then what do you mean?” Flynn asks, menace still heavy in his voice.
“Good Gods!” Bellanca rolls her eyes. “I was just trying to help. I’m going to change and pack.” She takes another bite and then throws her apple at Flynn, hitting him square in the forehead.
I slap my hand over my mouth, stifling a gasp. Laugh. Gasp laugh. I can’t believe she just did that!
Stone-faced, Flynn wipes apple juice from his brow. Jocasta stares in horror. Bellanca whirls on her heel and then stomps from the room, going out the same way she came in—fast and flaming.
As soon as the Tarvan woman is out of sight, I back away from the open door before dissolving into fits of quiet laughter. Soon after, I hear Flynn and Jocasta do the same.