- The Darkest Craving
Battling a sense of urgency, he hustled together a handful of the servants and issued a round of orders. The humans rushed around to take care of the twenty-nine items on Tink’s list—and avoid the consequences of failure. Soon, the wrinkles were being steamed out of curtains, the floors were being scrubbed, the banisters were being polished, and the queen’s bathroom was being cleaned.
The last was a chore meant to humiliate Tink, nothing more, he would bet. At breakfast, he’d witnessed the way the queen watched her, with resentment in those royal blue eyes. And he didn’t have to guess why. Tink was living proof the king had cheated, and Queen Penelope was lashing out in the only way she could. But that crap ended today. No longer would Tink serve a single member of the royal family.
She’d been placed in Kane’s care. She would serve him, and no one else.
He smiled. Tink would have balked if she’d heard his thoughts.
After speaking with one of the guards, he’d learned that Synda, his other responsibility, had decided to go for another walk in the garden, without protection and despite the Phoenix infestation.
As he stomped outside, a brutal wind suddenly kicked up, causing a hoe to lift from the ground and slam into him. When Kane failed to find the girl in the garden, he prowled into the forest. One hour passed, then two, but he found no tracks to suggest Synda—or even Petra—was out there. He would bet Synda had met someone, had sex, and returned to the palace. Sounds about right. As for Petra...he wasn’t sure. He only knew she wasn’t the type to give up.
Frustrated, he returned to the palace.
What a mess.
Disaster released a maniacal laugh.
Kane moved through the corridors, staying in the shadows, watching, listening. This had become his nightly ritual. He liked to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be, staying out of trouble, and making no plans to come after Tink. The king snaked around the far corner, leading his new mistress toward his suite of rooms. The man was huffing and puffing with eagerness, his hands already roaming under the girl’s dress. The girl muttered an encouragement, with zero inflection in her voice. She sounded dead.
They disappeared through the door, and Kane moved on. Synda was now in her bedroom, playing strip poker with Red, Green and Black. No surprises there, though Kane was relieved she was back at the palace at least. Where was White? In the billiards room, he discovered a surprisingly healthy Leopold playing with three human maids. All three had long, black hair.
Kane pressed his heels more firmly into the floor. Can’t kill him without causing Tink problems.
“You missed your shot,” Leopold said to the one holding the cue. “You’ll have to pay the penalty.”
The girl crooked her finger at him. “I’m more than willing.”
Leopold advanced on her, bending her over the table as he smashed his lips into hers. The other females watched, giggling.
Kane had heard the gossip. He knew the king had despised his son since his birth, yet Synda, the eldest, the one with the freaking mental disorder, he adored. What Kane didn’t know was why.
He backed out of the room. In the hallway he paused, booted footsteps claiming his attention.
“—must have chased the Phoenix horde out of the realm,” a guard said as he marched past.
Neither he nor his companion noticed Kane in the shadows.
“Cowards,” the other spat.
In the next room over, a group of servants were dusting and straightening a sitting room with a pink couch, pink loveseat, and multiple pink chairs.
“—just like her mother.”
“I know! I hear she’s sleeping in his room.”
A dreamy sigh wafted through the air. “I’d love to sleep in his room.”
A muscle twitched below his eye. They were talking about Tink, insinuating she was a...that she was his... He couldn’t even think the word anymore without wanting to kill someone. Painfully. He left the room—and ran into White.
“Are you following me?” he demanded.
She shrugged, unabashed.
He stepped around her, but she grabbed onto his wrist. He jerked from the contact, while Disaster purred.
“I’m confused about you, Kane, and I don’t like being confused.”
“That’s not my problem.”
A grinning William stumbled from the queen’s bedroom, and White rushed away down the hall.
“Hurry back, my darkling,” the queen called, oblivious to her audience.
“As if anything could keep me away for long, my pet,” the warrior twittered.
Kane stopped, waiting, his hands fisted.
The moment William shut the door, Kane was in his face, demanding softly, “What do you think you’re doing?”
The grin fell away, revealing a scowl of irritation. “Besides fighting a gag reflex? I’m getting answers. Why? You think I was betraying you?”
“You say that like I’d be crazy to think so, but we both know you once stabbed Lucien in the chest.”
“Ah, memories,” the warrior said with a grin. “But you aren’t trying to steal from me the way Lucien was. And by the way, I never do cougars free of charge. You so owe me for this.”
He eased off, but only slightly. “What have you learned?”
“I’ll tell you when I’m sure we’re alone. Wouldn’t want anyone to hear and think I actually enjoy helping my friends.” William led him down the hall and around the corner, then shouldered a portion of the wall—it opened, revealing a secret passage Kane hadn’t yet discovered. They entered the torch-lit space and pounded up a flight of creaking steps.
“Well,” the warrior began, as promised, “the king recently found out our good friend Paris is screwing Sienna, the new ruler of the Titans. He also learned Sabin and Strider are whipped by Harpies, and that Lucien had his balls removed by Anarchy. He fears your family and wants to be a part of it, whatever the cost.”
“Wow, so informative. Thanks for the old news.”
But, hearing the facts stated so plainly, he had to wonder how deeply the king’s desire ran. Enough to finally claim a connection to Tink, allowing Kane to wed her rather than the princess?
Wed...Tink, he thought. Tink. His bride. His wife.
Happiness bloomed, as warm and bright as a ray of sunshine.
No! Disaster screamed, and the floor beneath Kane’s feet cracked. I’ll kill her! Kill her so dead!
Kane tripped, hit his knees on one of the steps. Could he really subject Tink to the demon’s rages forever?
No. He couldn’t.
But could he really wed Synda?
Maybe he should call his friends. They would come. Sienna commanded a legion of immortal soldiers. Harpies could chew through an army with both hands tied behind their backs and their legs hobbled. Anarchy could destroy the world and laugh while doing it. War could be waged against the Fae, and Kane would be able to free Tink without having to wed anyone.
But what if someone he loved was hurt? How would he be able to live with himself? Worse, he would once again prove himself to be a failure, unable to achieve success on his own.
So, no. He had so little pride left. He wouldn’t go that route unless absolutely necessary.
“Okay, you’ve gone from turned on to pissed to dejected in three seconds. It’s quite entertaining, and I’m flattered—I’ve always known you were crushing on me—but now I want in. What are you planning?” William asked.
“I wish I knew.”
“Well, figure it out. The sooner you do, the sooner we can leave. If I have to go down on the queen one more time...” He shuddered. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s usually one of my favorite pastimes, but she’s given my tongue frostbite.”
“You think I’m not trying to figure this out?” he snapped. Whatever road he chose came with terrible consequences, and he was getting whiplash from deciding on one route, then changing his mind, then changing his mind again.
“You don’t want to know what I think.”
“You’re right. If you aren’t thinking about having sex, you’re thinking about getting sex.”
“I like that you know me so well. By the way, the queen and princess are playing some kind of game in the gardens tomorrow morning, and your Tinker Hell will be involved somehow. I suggest you make an appearance.”
Another attempt to humiliate Servant Josephina—and if he heard that title again he was going to erupt. “I will. And you do me a solid and keep your kids out of my way. They claimed to be my assistants, just to get close to Tink.”
“Well, yeah. It was my idea. They liked what she did for them and want more.”
Kane shoved William against the wall, his hand wrapping around the male’s windpipe and squeezing. “Your idea?”
Electric blues gleamed with amusement. “Yes, and this is the thanks I get? I did you a favor. You should appreciate having your enemy within reach. I would.”
Bit by bit Kane eased his hold. “They can’t have her. I’ll kill them if they try.” He might, anyway.
“Were you hit in the head? Of course I know that. Which is why I warned the boys about Lords of Pussywhip Manor and their women.” William motioned to the closed door in front. “And now, our little convo is over. This is a door to your hallway. Off you go, Candy Kane.”
Kane left him without another word. Thankfully, there were no guards in the area, saving him the complication of sneaking. Everyone assumed he was inside—with his mistress.
As quietly as possible, he fixed his lock and entered his room. He wondered what Tink was doing, if she was mad at him. He didn’t like the thought of her angry; he wanted her relaxed, happy.
He found her on the bed, buried under the covers. As he tiptoed forward, something in his chest softened. He reached the side of the mattress and gently pushed back the covers, desperate to see her face, perhaps brush his knuckles along her cheekbone. He saw...a bunched-up pillow?
As his mind sputtered to compute what this meant—had Tink done this or had someone done it for her? Was she safe?—he heard the rustle of clothing behind him. At his side, a shadow moved. Next, a quiet whistle caught his attention—glass being brandished through the air. Kane spun, and grabbed his would-be assailant.