The Queen of Traitors, Teaser #1
The door to my cell opens, and Lieutenant Begbie enters, followed by a soldier.
“So it’s true, you really don’t remember your past?” he opens, rounding the interview table in my cell and taking a seat. The table’s been bolted to the floor, but the chairs aren’t. I’ve already considered everything in this room as a potential weapon. The sheets can choke, the chairs can bludgeon, my pillow can smother. Those types of deaths require intimacy and strength, neither of which I have at the moment. Hence, I’ve taken to assessing the soldiers that come into the room.
Lieutenant Begbie has a gun holstered at his side. The soldier has several. This time they pulled in a greenie. I can see it in his jaw; he’s forcing himself to look stoic. The more experienced soldiers don’t have to force anything. They’ve seen and done it all, and if it hasn’t broken their mind or their will, they become a whole new type of lethal, one that will sometimes let you see the emptiness in their eyes.
This soldier’s eyes are not empty, despite all his valiant efforts. I tear my eyes away from him before either he or Begbie can notice my interest.
“We’re in negotiations with the king at the moment,” Begbie says.
The king. He’s supposed to be my ally, but I don’t want any part of his madness.
“What does he want?” I ask, walking over to the chair.
Begbie stares at me for an unnerving amount of time, a slow smile stretching along his face. “The general told me all about you, and I’ve seen the footage.”
I narrow my eyes.
“Apparently so has the king, and he still wants you. Seems he has a thing for wildcats.”
I ignore the barb.
“And you’re going to give me to him?”
“There’s a rumor out there that the king is immortal, that he can’t die.” Begbie leans forward. “We have clips of the king getting mortally wounded, and still he lives.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
Before he has time to respond, a soldier cracks open the door. “Get the prisoner ready.”
Lieutenant Begbie stands. “Put your hands behind your back,” he orders me.
I could do it now—kill him. By the time the lieutenant figured out my motives, it would be too late. And I’d gamble the greenie wouldn’t shoot me before I got a chance to fire at him.
I could do it, there’s a confidence to my assessment and I already know I have the muscle memory. Yet every fiber of my being recoils from the thought. Whatever else, I’m not a monster by design.
“Put your hands behind your back,” Begbie says more forcefully.
I’ve missed my opportunity.
I do so, and he cuffs me rougher than necessary. I run my tongue over my teeth, clenching my jaw as my raw wrists and my bullet wound sting. I still hurt all over, and it doesn’t help that the lieutenant jerks me up out of my seat.
Pain is a warm companion. I must’ve known it quite well before today, whether at the hands of the WUN or the king. Probably both. It seems like they are two sides of the same coin, and both are missing compassion.
Begbie and the soldier escort me out of the cell, and I get my first good look at my prison. More cement walls and fluorescent lights. No windows.
“Where are we going?”
No one answers me.
I might be walking to my death. Or to an interrogation chamber, the kind that leaves behind teeth and bloodstains. Now I know why I was so ready to kill, despite my disgust. Being soft doesn’t save you in this place. Power does, fear does, and pain does.
If I have the chance to act again, I won’t hesitate.
They march me down the narrow corridor. We make several turns. The drabness of this prison doesn’t exactly change, but the atmosphere does. An increasing number of people wander the halls. When their eyes land on me, I see them react. Sometimes it’s just recognition, other times it’s fear or anger or pity.
They know of me.
What had I been expecting? I am the king’s wife. Likely a public figure.
We stop in front of a door, and on the other side I can hear murmurs.
An execution, then. Torture doesn’t require so many people, I think.
Only, when they open the door, my presumptions melt away. In front of me rests a camera and a chair, the latter currently occupied by a soldier.
But that is not what captures my attention.
At the back of the room is a large screen. My breath catches when my eyes land on it.
The soldier sitting in front of the camera turns, then stands when he sees us. My guards march me forward and force me into the abdicated seat.
The entire time I stare at the man whose face takes up the screen.
I expected an abomination.
Evil is supposed to be ugly, but he isn’t ugly. In fact, this man—my husband, if my assumption’s correct—is pleasing to stare at.
Unlined, tan skin, dark hair brushed back from his face, a strong, straight nose, eyes that draw you in, and a mouth that promises dark secrets. Was that why I married him? I hope to God not. I don’t want to know who I was if that were the reason.
My heart thumps faster. He is gorgeous, but it’s not his looks that have moved me.
I recognize myself in his eyes. Even as fogged as my mind is, even as unaware of my past as I am, something about him resonates deep within me. I don’t know what it means, but already I can no longer think of him objectively.
“Serenity.” He doesn’t say my name the same way my captors do, like I’m the scourge of the earth. He says it like we’re lovers.
We are lovers.
He wants me back. I can read it plainly on his face, in the way his pupils dilate. This is the man they all fear and hate. A man, if they’re to be believed, that I fear and hate.
“Montes,” he corrects. I get the impression he’s done that before—corrected me.
“Have they hurt you?” As he asks, his eyes drift to my wrapped arm. A vein in his temple pulses.
One wrong word and this house of cards will tumble. That’s the kind of power I wield, being this man’s wife. He’ll kill them all, and unlike me, he’ll enjoy it thoroughly.
“I’m a prisoner,” I respond. “I expect I’m being treated about as decently as any other.”
His chin trembles ever so slightly. Whoever this king is, right now, he’s more man than nightmare. Perhaps he’s depraved, but he feels something for me. Odd that right now, of the two of us, I feel I am the colder one. My heart is made of steel and fire and I cannot muster emotion to match his.
“I’m going to get you out of there. You need to stay alive for me.”
I can’t go back to him. I can’t. He has power over me, power that has nothing to do with pain and punishment. I’m enthralled by him, and considering the way he tracks my every movement through the screen, the feeling seems mutual.
“Time’s up,” someone calls. “We’ve proved she’s alive.”
“Alive and injured,” the king says. A dozen different threats lace his voice. I fear that if I live long enough, I’ll see each one of them carried out.
A soldier grabs my uninjured arm and pulls me to my feet.
I take in the handsome man on the other side of the screen a final time. “Whoever you are, I hope you were worth it.”
If you enjoyed that, make sure to click here to add The Queen of Traitors (The Fallen World #2) on Goodreads. To see The Queen of All that Dies (The Fallen World #1), the first novel in the series, click here.
In the coming months I’ll have more teasers for you and a cover reveal, so keep your eyes out for more! :)