Home > The Iron Daughter (The Iron Fey #2)(11)

The Iron Daughter (The Iron Fey #2)(11)
Author: Julie Kagawa

“Oh, come now, Princess, don’t be shy,” Rowan purred. “You seemed to have a lot to say about our dearest boy Ash, here. Go on and tell him.”

I glared at Rowan, wishing I could tell him exactly what he could do with himself, but I was feeling so sick and light-headed now, it took all my concentration to stay upright. Ash’s gaze hardened. Striding away from me, he bent and plucked something out of the snow, holding it up before him.

It was the fruit I’d dropped, a single bite taken out of the flesh, like Snow White’s poisoned apple. Only it wasn’t an apple now, but a big spotted toadstool, the fleshy insides white as bone. My stomach heaved, cramping violently, and I nearly lost the bite I’d taken.

Ash said nothing. Glaring at Rowan, he held up the mushroom and raised an eyebrow. Rowan sighed.

“Mab didn’t specifically say we couldn’t use spill-your-guts,” Rowan said, shrugging his lean shoulders. “Besides, I think you’d be most interested in what our Summer princess has to say about you.”

“Why should I be?” Ash tossed the mushroom away, looking bored again.

“This conversation isn’t important. I made the bargain to get her here, and now it’s done. Anything I said or did was for the purpose of bringing her to court.”

I gasped, my hands dropping away from my face, to stare at him. It was true, then. He’d been playing me all along. What he told me in the Iron Kingdom, everything we shared, none of that was real. I felt ice spreading through my stomach and shook my head, trying to erase what I just heard. “No,” I muttered, too low for anyone to hear. “It’s not true. It can’t be. Ash, tell him you’re lying.”

“Mab doesn’t care how I did it, as long as the goal was accomplished,” Ash continued, oblivious to my torment. “Which is more than I can say for you.” He crossed his arms and shrugged, the picture of indifference. “Now, if we’re quite done here, the half-breed should return inside. The queen will not be pleased if she freezes to death.”

“Ash,” I whispered as he turned away. “Wait!” He didn’t even glance at me. Tears pressed behind my eyes, and I stumbled after him, fighting a wave of dizziness. “Ash!”

“I love you!”

The words just tumbled out of me. I didn’t mean to say them, but the moment I did, my stomach twisted with disbelief and utter horror. My hands flew back to my mouth, but it was far, far too late. Rowan grinned his biggest yet, a smile full of terrible glee, like he’d been given the best present in the world.

Ash froze, his back still to me. For just a moment, I saw his hands clench at his sides.

“That’s unfortunate for you, isn’t it?” he said, his voice dead of emotion.

“But the Summer Court has always been weak. Why would I touch the half-breed daughter of Oberon? Don’t make me sick, human.”

It was like an icy hand plunged into my body, ripping my heart from my chest. I felt actual physical pain lance through me. My legs buckled, and I collapsed to the snow, ice crystals biting into my palms. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even cry. All I could do was kneel there, the cold seeping through my jeans, hearing Ash’s words echo through my head.

“Oh, that was cruel, Ash,” Rowan said, sounding delighted. “I do believe you broke our poor princess’s heart.”

Ash said something else, something I didn’t catch, because the ground began to twirl beneath me, and another wave of dizziness made my head spin. I could have fought it off, but I was numb to all feeling, and I didn’t care at the moment. Let the darkness come, I thought, let it take me away, before it pulled a heavy blanket over my eyes and I dropped into oblivion.

CHAPTER THREE

The Scepter of the Seasons

I drifted for a while, neither awake nor asleep, caught somewhere between the two. Hazy, half-remembered dreams swam across my vision, mingling with reality until I didn’t know which was which. I dreamed of my family, of Ethan and Mom and my stepdad, Luke. I dreamed of them going on without me, slowly forgetting who I was, that I ever existed. Shapes and voices floated in and out of my consciousness: Tiaothin telling me to snap out of it because she was bored, Rowan telling Queen Mab that he had no idea I would react so violently to a simple mushroom, another voice telling the queen that I might never wake up. Sometimes I dreamed that Ash was in the room, standing in a corner or beside my bed, just watching me with bright silver eyes. In my delirium, I might have heard him whisper that he was sorry.

“Humans are such fragile creatures, aren’t they?” murmured a voice one night, as I drifted in and out of stupor. “One tiny nibble of spill-your-guts sends them into a coma. Pathetic.” It snorted. “I heard this one was in love with Prince Ash. Makes you wonder what Mab will do to her, once she wakes up. She’s none too pleased with the Summer whelp being all mushy-mushy with her favorite son.”

“Well, she certainly picked an inconvenient time to go all Sleeping Beauty,”

added another voice, “what with the Exchange coming up and all.” It snorted. “If she does wake up, Mab might kill her for the annoyance. Either way, it’ll be entertaining.” The sound of their laughter faded away, and I floated in darkness.

An eternity passed with few distractions. Voices slipping by me, unimportant. Tiaothin repeatedly poking me in the ribs, her sharp claws drawing blood, but the pain belonged to someone else. Scenes of my family: Mom on the porch with a police officer, explaining she didn’t have a missing daughter; Ethan playing in my room, which was now an office, repainted and refurnished, all my personal items given away. There was a dull throb in my chest as I watched him; in another life, it might have been sorrow, longing, but I was beyond feeling anything now and watched my half brother with detached curiosity. He was talking to a familiar stuffed rabbit, and that made me frown. Wasn’t that rabbit destroyed…?

   
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