Home > Soul in Darkness(15)

Soul in Darkness(15)
Author: Wendy Higgins

Once I made my way to the dining room I was able to spot the wing of my bedchamber. I sped up to get there, then remembered my destination was not a safe place, because he would follow me. Whether tonight was the night he would finally show his dark side, or if he’d continue to toy with me, remained to be seen. Either way, it was my fate. I could not escape it.

Nervousness razed me when I crossed the threshold, as if I’d pressed through brambles to enter. My skin stung with fear, my insides roiling. I backed against the wall near my bed, hating that I could not control my body.

“Come sit,” came his voice from the doorway, followed by that exasperated sigh again. His footsteps sounded, and a chair pulled back.

I forced myself to unwrap my arms from around my body, and walked forward with my head high, taking the seat and sitting stiffly. The chair across the table from me pulled out and I heard the cushion depress as he sat. I stared at the blank space before me, the wonder of his invisibility never ceasing. My eyes strained to see the edges of him, at the very least, but not a spec was visible.

“I understand you would like to play a game.”

My stomach soured, knowing my kind maid had told him. It felt like a betrayal, though I knew her loyalty was to him, not me.

“I wanted to play with Renae,” I clarified.

I heard him shift in his seat and the cabinet beneath the table opening. Moments later a board was placed atop the table. Black and white squares, perfectly aligned, and smooth stones peered up at me. I swallowed down a sudden memory of playing stone chess with Dawn. She was a sore loser, so I often let her win, but she was a sore winner, as well, never able to tap down the urge to gloat. Still, I never admitted I’d botched my turns, because once she finished bragging she’d be in the finest mood, dancing me around the rooms and laughing, wanting to cause mischief with me.

“You are glowing. What are you thinking about?”

I blinked away memories of Dawn’s rare, beaming smile and frowned. “What do you mean I’m glowing?”

“Your soul.”

My heart thumped, then raced. He really could see my soul. The knowledge was sickening and terrifying, but in truth he sounded…in awe. Perhaps it was a sign of how homesick I was, because without meaning to, I answered.

“My sister. Dawn.”

“Hm.” I couldn’t get a read on that response. He separated out the light stones from the dark ones.

“White or black?” he asked.

“Black seems fitting.”

“How so?”

“You prefer to keep me in the dark.”

The room suddenly flickered as if the sun itself had blinked, and then it went from day to night, candles erupting into flame throughout the room. Sulfur wafted toward me and I sat very still. It took a long moment for him to answer. “That is the way it has to be. It is not about my preference.” The lot of dark stones were pushed forward to the edge of the board in front of me. His mood had definitely darkened along with the room.

“By all means,” he said. “Have the first move.”

I wondered… “How will you handle losing to me?”

A pause, then a burst of gritty laughter, bringing with it the scent of warm honey. That sound, though deep, and even raw, was again melodious. Every single time he laughed, really laughed, the undertones seemed to slink under my skin in all the wrong ways. My blood danced with the notes of his laughter. I remained very still as his mirth attempted to charm my skin, moving over me, in me, through me to unknot every unwanted tightness, and tighten places that I didn’t even want to think about. I kept my face expressionless as his chuckles faded and he sniffed the air like a hound.

A deep reverberation sounded from his chest, making me swallow and clench my thighs.

“Fine, I’ll go first,” I rasped, quickly reaching out to press one of my stones forward with a shaking hand. He knew what he was doing to me—somehow causing my body to betray my mind. Of course, he did, and gods knew he had a keen sense of smell, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of acknowledging it again with words or actions.

One of his light stones slid forward. Only safe moves in the beginning.

As I moved a black stone with brown starbursts, I worked up the courage to speak.

“Whatever it is you’re doing to me, for whatever purpose, my mind will never bend.” I stared at the board. “Even if my body weakens, my mind will not give in.”

“That is what I fear.”

I peered up at the place where his face would be, wondering what he meant.

“Why do you fear the strength of my mind?”

“Because if you do not give in, as you call it, only pain awaits you.”

I bristled, bringing my hands to my lap. “That’s when you’ll punish me? When my body finally breaks, and my mind is still my own?”

“Not I.” It barely came out a whisper.

“Not you?” I was beyond confused. “Then who?”

“You know I cannot say,” he gritted.

I narrowed my eyes. “Who controls you?”

“I told you, I am my own master!” A bang against the table caused me to jump back in the chair as the stones lifted and fell back down with a clatter, some tumbling to the floor. With a growl, I felt the air around me stir, and the stones rose again, moving back into the exact places they had been before his outburst. I could hear his ragged breathing.

“All right, no master then,” I said. “But someone has some sort of control over you.”

“It is not control,” he bit out. “It is something different. Why must you be so inquisitive? Why can you not enjoy the beauty and comfort I have surrounded you with?”

“You are bound,” I said, trying to work out the possibilities in my head, my heart increasing in speed with each word that escaped my lips. “A god, perhaps, has somehow bound you with the task of punishing me for the wrongs of my family and people. But it cannot be a simple punishment. No. You are to break me in every way—”

The air around me changed and I gasped. It felt as if I were enclosed in a small space, though I had not left my chair. Suddenly warmer, my breaths coming more rapidly, I knew he’d somehow enclosed us. I froze as his telltale scent of honeysuckle wound its way seductively through my senses.

“What’s happening?” I whispered.

“Shh,” he whispered. “Psyche…why must you make this so difficult for both of us? For one moment could you not strategize all the possible horrors and just let yourself be?”

Tears clouded my vision and I closed my eyes against the burn. “It’s not in my spirit to give over easily.”

“Tell me something,” his low voice said so very close to my face. “What do you envision when you imagine me?”

I shuddered, overly warm, shaking my head. “A mixture of scales and fur in place of skin.” I swallowed hard. “Soulless eyes. Sharp teeth and fangs. Claws. And wings as thick and dark as stained leather-hide.”

“I take it that is not your idea of attractive?”

Ugh, that word again! My face must have been answer enough because he burst into laughter, filling our small bubble of space with a blast of pure…gods, what was that? Pure deliciousness for my ears and senses. I grasped my knees through the fabric of my stola hard enough to feel my nails, and said, “Stop that!”

With a gust of air movement, the enclosed sensation disappeared, and I sucked in a breath, peering around. “What was that?”

“You were in my wings,” he explained from his seat across from me. “I thought perhaps if I wrapped them around you, you would feel protected.” My skin flushed as his words caused a myriad of sensations to overwhelm my mind and senses.

“Well, I didn’t,” I said, crossing my arms in a huff.

“It certainly made you feel something.”

“It made me feel ill.”

He made a snicking sound with his tongue. “Psyche, lying does not become you.”

“Well then I shall lie all the more.”

He chuckled again, and I scowled.

“Tell me,” he said. “Why do you not call me Leodes as I requested?”

The sound of that name caused my chest to tighten with longing and regret. “I told you, I knew a Leodes, so it feels wrong.”

“You think you have feelings for him?”

I didn’t like his tone, as if he was aware I didn’t know Leodes well at all. But he could never understand the connection I felt after one conversation. My crossed-arms tensed, and I bit my lip, refusing to be baited.

“He intrigued you?” When I only shrugged, he went on. “But surely you met many powerful, handsome men who intrigued you. Suitors?”

“I felt nothing for any of them. Not a single one made me feel the way he did.”


I hated when he said Hm. I couldn’t get a reading on that sound.

“What if I told you, Wife, that I know this Leodes you speak of?”

My eyes widened. “That’s not possible.” But then he went on to describe my Leodes in perfect detail. I clenched my jaw, in shock.

“I make you this promise,” he told me. “If you behave, allow yourself to relax, when our time under these circumstances is over, you will see him again.”

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