Just when I thought the evening was going to be another dull meet and greet, the WUN emissary walks in, and on his arm I see her.
The emissary’s daughter. Serenity Freeman.
The world doesn’t stop moving, the room doesn’t go quiet, but I swear something inside me just broke and reformed the moment she turned her devlish eyes on me—and that’s the only way to describe those eyes of hers. Devilish. She’s a wicked soul, through and though.
Just like me.
She’s unlike the women I’m used to. Her arms are sculpted, and her body is lean beneath her dress. It’s an almost laughable contrast to the soft women that fill the rest of the room. I’m dying to lift her skirt, run my hands up those legs, and get to know just how toned the rest of her is.
As pretty as her body might be, it’s not what’s captivated me. I can’t look away from her face. In another life it might’ve been sweet. But not in this one. A wicked scar slices down the side of it. It’s the most obvious warning that she’s a dangerous creature.
I wish I got off on fear and hate, because both are burning in her eyes the closer she gets to me. I’ve killed others for less than the expression I see in her eyes, but this woman, she is someone who knows violence intimately. I’m almost positive the death doesn’t scare her. But apparently I do.
And the strangest thought yet pops into my mind: I don’t want this intriguing woman to fear me.
I know she’s a trap. I know the WUN sent her here with her father because they’re desperate, and they’re hoping to bait me with a woman. Those clever fools probably never thought that what would attract me to her was everything that lay beneath that pretty skin of hers—the viscous, hardened soul that looks so similar to my own. She’s the best challenge I’ve seen yet.
I need to get to know her. She might’ve just changed everything.
My eyes lock with the king’s, and I suppress a shudder. He’s even more handsome than the pictures I’ve seen of him. Black, wavy hair, olive skin, dark eyes, sensual lips. But it’s more than just his features; it’s how he wears them. Like he is something regal, something you want to draw closer to. It’s not fair that evil can wear such an alluring mask.
His eyes move over me like a predator sizing up prey.
I make a noise at the back of my throat, and my father places a hand over mine. We can’t talk here, not when the cameras are rolling.
I breathe in, then out. I can do this. For my country, I can. I step forward, and we descend down the staircase. I know my father can feel my trembling hands. It’s a miracle that my legs are holding me up at all. The entire time the king stares at me. Not my father. Me.
It takes all my energy to keep moving and look calm. In reality, I can’t hear anything over the pounding of my pulse and the screaming inside my head. Not until we reach the bottom, until I stare into the king’s deep brown eyes. Then the moment comes into hyper focus.
The king peels his eyes away from me to greet my father. “Ambassador Freeman,” he says, “it is my pleasure to host you here for the peace talks.” It’s frightening to see that the king shares my father’s talent for camouflaging himself to fit his audience. The king doesn’t need peace talks to get what he wants, but he plays along, lying effortlessly through his teeth.
I drop my hold on my father’s arm. He takes the king’s outstretched hand as cameras go off. “King Lazuli, it’s an honor to finally meet you,” my father says. “I hope that our two great hemispheres can come together to foster future peace.” My father lies just as effortlessly as he stares the monster in the eyes and shakes his hand.
Now it’s my turn.
The king turns his attention away from my father, and my stomach contracts painfully. This is the man who killed my mom. The man who leveled my city and all my friends living in it. He’s the man who I’ve seen shot on national television, yet still he lives.
Unlike his response to my father, I can see the king’s genuine interest in me. His eyes look lit from behind. “Ambassador Freeman, I presume that this is your daughter, Serenity Freeman?” the king asks.
Next to me my father’s body goes rigid, and I know he senses the king’s interest in me. “She is,” my father says.
The king gives me a slow, sly smile and grabs my hand. I fight the overwhelming impulse to yank it free, cock my fist, and smash it into his face. Instead I bare my teeth as the cameras go off. I know it looks more like a snarl than a smile, but it’s the best I can do at the moment.
King Lazuli brings my hand up to his lips, and I close my eyes to block out the sight of his mouth against my skin. I only open them once he pulls my hand away from his lips. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Serenity.”
He means it. Heaven help me, I’ve caught the attention of the king.
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