Gathering Darkness

Page 111

"Isn't that sweet," Amara hissed. "Brother, you do have real feelings for him after all. I had no idea. You deceived me completely. All for a lowly Auranian guard who isn't worth wiping your boots on."
Real feelings? Nic had told Cleo about the confusing kiss he'd shared with the prince. Perhaps that confusion had cleared way to something . . . more?
Nic wouldn't meet her gaze.
Ashur narrowed his eyes. "Give this up, Amara. You've lost. It's over."
She shook her head, then began to laugh lightly. "Of course. You're right. I've been out of control. I needed someone to shake me like this, to show me the path I'd chosen wasn't right." She let out a shaky breath and drew closer to him, took hold of his sleeve and looked up at his face. "I'm so sorry."
That was a swift surrender. Cleo watched her with disbelief as Amara embraced her brother.
"I forgive you." Ashur kissed her forehead, relief flooding his eyes. "I would forgive my family for anything."
"Unfortunately, I'm not nearly as forgiving." Steel flashed in her grip as she pulled a dagger from the folds of her cloak. Before Cleo could scream or even take another breath, Amara plunged it upward into Ashur's chest.
He stared at her, his eyes wide.
"Father will be so disappointed in you," she said as she twisted the knife sharply.
Ashur grabbed his sister's arms, shoving her back from him. He pulled the dagger out of his chest with a grunt of pain, then fell, hard, to his knees.
"No!" Nic yelled, running to Ashur's side.
Amara nodded at a guard, who slammed his fist into Nic's face. He fell to the ground and lost his grip on the crystal, sending it rolling away across the floor.
Amara leaned over and picked it up.
Nic, his nose gushing blood, scrambled to press his hand against the wound in Ashur's chest.
Cleo and Magnus looked on, horrified.
Ashur clutched the front of Nic's cloak, staining it with his blood. "Please forgive me. I never wanted anyone to get hurt-especially not you."
"I forgive you," Nic whispered, his voice breaking. "I forgive you for everything."
Ashur slumped against him, his gaze going glassy and blank.
Trembling now, Cleo watched Amara carefully for any reaction to having just killed her own brother.
"The emperor won't be happy with this," Magnus said, in a low voice.
Amara sighed. "You're right, he won't. When I tell him that his youngest son was killed by King Gaius's heir, he'll want revenge." She glanced at Cleo, who stared at her with shock and disgust. "Vengeance as it was meant to be-swift and merciless, leaving nothing behind but bones. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must return to Kraeshia, where I can mourn my brother with my own people. But thank you both for leading me to this."
Amara slipped the sphere of aquamarine into her cloak and pointed to three of her guards. "Stay here and kill them all. Burn their bodies. Leave nothing behind to show we were ever here. And you two," she gestured toward the other guards, "come with me."
She passed close enough to Magnus that, for a moment, Cleo thought he might reach out and snap her neck, but he didn't. That, Cleo felt, was unfortunate. His tendency to use violence to solve his problems would have been perfectly acceptable this time.
She turned to look at Nic holding Ashur's lifeless body in his arms. Nic didn't move, barely breathed, his frozen expression one of pain and grief.
Cleo's heart ached for him.
Nic mourned the prince's death, but he wouldn't have to for long.
The princess had already given her guards the order to make sure the three of them followed Prince Ashur to the everafter.
"All right," Magnus said as calmly as possible after Amara and two of her guards had left the temple. "It's time to negotiate. I have every intention of walking out of here with my life, so the only question is: How much gold will that cost me?"
The guard who'd shoved him and called him "boy" stepped closer, inspecting him as if he were a piece of dung he'd found on the bottom of his boot. "Gold?"
"Yes. From what I know of Kraeshians, they enjoy a lavish lifestyle on par with that of the Auranians. My father is king. He has plenty of gold. I can arrange for a great deal of it to find its way into your possession."
"For all three of you?"
"Amara asked you to kill us and burn our bodies. There are bodies outside that would be sufficient stand-ins for all three of us."
"Interesting proposition. But it's not going to happen."
Magnus's upper lip thinned. "She just killed her brother and plans to blame it on me. Do you really think she's going to let any witnesses live?"
"She needs us."
"She needs no one. Now that she has that crystal, she has everything she came here for. We can't let her board a ship with it. We can't let her leave Limeros."
The attentions of all three guards closed in on Magnus. Out of their eye line, Cleo slowly moved toward Nic and knelt down to pick up Amara's discarded dagger.
She was not helping matters at all. Cleo might have many hidden skills, but Magnus would be willing to wager that the fine art of weaponry was not one of them.
Suddenly her movement caught the attention of a guard, who grabbed her and knocked the blade from her grip. He struck her hard across her face, causing her to shriek and stagger backward. She fell against the altar, striking her head on its edge.Source: www_Novel12_Com