Home > A Curse So Dark and Lonely (A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1)(7)

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1)(7)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Last week. Jake never mentioned anyone, so maybe it was a one-night thing. I can’t begrudge my brother getting a little action. He probably needs the stress relief.

It feels weird that he wouldn’t have said anything about it, though.

Swipe. Another photo of the two of them, another day. My brother is laughing, covering his eyes. The other guy is grinning.

I keep swiping. More pictures. Lots of them.

They go on for months.

My heart is pounding now. Jake never mentioned a relationship with anyone. Not once. Not at all.

I don’t know what this means. I don’t know if it even matters. I’m still locked in this room. Jake could be hurt. Jake could be—

My breath hitches. I can’t think like this. I need to distract myself.

With shaking breath, I click on my brother’s text messages. I’ve never snooped on him before, but I have nothing else to do.

Four message conversations sit on the screen.

Lawrence, Jake’s “boss.” I scowl.




Noah. I shouldn’t click.

I click.

The last message exchange happened an hour before the job.

NOAH: My shift ends at 7. Are you OK?

JAKE: Yeah. I’ll be done by then.

NOAH: Please tell me what you’re doing.

JAKE: I will. Soon.

NOAH: Please be careful. Promise?

JAKE: I promise.

NOAH: I love you.

JAKE: I love you, too.

I love you. He loves someone? My brother is in love?

I wish I’d known. I wish I knew more. I wish I knew what this meant. We’ve always told each other everything. Or at least, I have. Friends have been an impossibility since Dad got tangled up with Lawrence, and Mom spends most of her life sleeping now. It’s just been me and Jake for so long.

Keys rattle in the lock.

My breath catches. He’s back.

The lock gives. The door creaks open.

I draw my dagger and throw myself forward. I don’t have a plan more intricate than stab and run, but I don’t even get that far. A hand brushes my arm aside, a foot catches my ankle, and before I can find my balance, I’m crashing into the hard wooden floor. The dagger clatters to the ground in one direction. Jake’s phone skitters in another.

I’m not staring up at Rhen. I’m staring up at Grey.

I roll to seize the dagger and hold it up in front of me, but he’s not coming after me now. He hasn’t moved from the doorway. My heart is a wild rush in my ears, but he’s barely even breathing quickly.

“Draw a weapon on me again,” he says, “and I am certain you will not be pleased with the result.”

I tighten my grip on the dagger. “I did okay with the crowbar.”

“Ah, yes. The bar.” He gestures around the room. “Tell me: Are you pleased with that result?”

“What do you want? Where is Rhen?”

“He is indisposed.” His eyes flick left, past me, to Jake’s phone, lying six feet away.

My heart stops. It’s my only connection to Jake and to Mom. Sort of.

I make a dive for it, but Grey is closer than I am—and really, there’s no contest. He’s frowning at the screen before I’ve crossed half the distance.

I scramble to my feet in front of him, the dagger pointed up at him. “Give that back to me. Right now.”

My voice is full of fury and fear—more than I’m ready for. His eyes shift up to meet mine. This close, I can see that the welts I left on his neck have turned an angry red, worse than they were earlier. Good. I hope they’re infected.

He glances at the blade between us, and his eyebrows raise by a fraction. “You would fight me for it?”

Grey’s tone is ice-cold and backed with steel. Rhen seems to be all about chivalry and thoughtful contemplation. This man is not. This is a man of violence.

I tighten my grip on the dagger. “Yeah. I will.”

Without warning, his hand shoots out and he catches my wrist. I choke on my breath and throw myself back.

His grip is strong. “I know better than to underestimate you now.”

I’m fighting like a fish on a line, but he’s immovable. My breath echoes in my ears. I’m so stupid. I twist, bringing back a knee so I can drive it right into his crotch.

He steps into my motion, giving me no room to do anything at all, then lifts my arm to hold me in place. Just when I’m sure he’s going to clock me in the face or cut my head off, he says, “Here now. There’s no need for all that. Take it.”

His voice is calm, completely at odds with our relative positions. My pulse rockets in my head and it takes me a second to realize he’s holding out the phone.

I seize it with my free hand and shove it in my pocket. I want to whimper with relief.

I also want to whimper at the way he’s pinning my arm overhead.

He lowers it slowly, but he doesn’t loosen his grip. “Those devices do not work here.”

“I don’t care. Let me go.”

He doesn’t. Instead, he begins prying my fingers off the dagger.

“Stop.” I try to grab his wrist, to wrestle him away. “You can’t take it.”

“I am not taking it.” He pries it free, flips it in his hand, and presses it back into my palm, the point angled down. “This way.”

I stare up at him. “What?” I say dumbly.

“Keep wielding a dagger like a sword and you’re likely to lose your hand.”


Grey speaks as though we’re in the midst of a casual conversation, not like I’m a deadweight against his grip. “You are quick to fight. I thought some technique may be useful.”

He’s not going to kill me. My heart begins to settle.

He turns my wrist and puts the hilt against the center of my chest, the point level with his own. “See? Now you have some defense when an opponent grabs you. If you were lucky, you could pull me right into your blade.”

My mouth is working, but no sound is coming out. I can’t decide whether to be impressed or angry. “Can I do that right now?”

He smiles, and his eyes light with genuine amusement. “Perhaps next time.”

Then he steps back and releases me. I’m breathless and caught in this space between terror and exhilaration. It’s a miracle I haven’t dropped the dagger.

Grey nods at the window, where bright midday sunlight courses into the room. “Dinner will be served at full dark. His Highness will return for you then.”

I force myself to nod. Swallow. Speak. “Okay. Sure.”

Then he’s gone, and the door is locked once again.



I wake with a belly full of fire. My body feels torn apart.

I draw a hand across my abdomen. No bandages, no stinging tightness. Lilith didn’t break the skin. Sometimes that’s worse—when the pain is all magic. Magic takes longer to heal.

A crackling fire throws shadows on the wall. Music carries from the Great Hall, a slower flute melody that tells me we have an hour until dinner. I’m in my bedroom, an early autumn draft from the window fluttering across my face.

I am also alone.

I struggle to right myself, but pain ricochets through my body. I hiss a breath between my teeth and remember Lilith’s admonition. She said this would be the final season—something that should be a relief, yet instead she’s turned it into a darker form of torture.

I clutch an arm to my stomach and make it to sitting. “Grey.” My voice sounds as though I’ve been eating ash from the fireplace.

He appears in the doorway. “Yes, my lord?”

I run a hand over my face. “What happened?”

He moves to a side table and uncorks a bottle. Red liquid glints in the light as he pours. “Lilith appeared in the arena.”

“I remember that.” I shift forward. The pain is easing a bit with my movement. The marks on his throat have darkened and scabbed over. “Did she harm you after I fell?”

“No.” He holds out the glass, and I take it. The first sip burns my throat, and then my stomach, but I welcome this pain because it will dull the other.

Grey pours none for himself. He never does. At one time it was forbidden among the Royal Guard, but now there is no one here to care.

Still, he would refuse if I offered. I’ve been down this road before.

“Have you checked on the girl?”

He nods. “I have.”

After I turned the lock this morning, I expected her to pound on the door in fury. Instead, I was met with a silence that seemed loaded with furious resignation. “Would she speak with you at all?”

“She drew a dagger and seemed willing to fight over one of those devices they all carry.”

I sigh. Of course. “Anything else?”

“She is interesting.”

My eyes flick up. That’s not a word I’ve ever heard Grey use to describe one of the girls. “Interesting?”

“She’s impulsive, but I believe she would fight to the death if cornered. If there was something she wanted.”

That is interesting.

Considering that she wants nothing more than to go home, it’s also disheartening.

She’s afraid of me now. Such a turn of events. Just wait until she sees the monster.

These thoughts are not productive. I drain the glass. Grey moves to refill it, but I wave him off. I need to move.

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