Arya knew Malich kept secrets from her but she never imagined he was withholding a secret of this magnitude. If she and Alara really are descendants of someone from the Litri dynasty, then it would make sense that she be the one to both inherit and resurrect the Seelie Court.
The Autumn Court decided to lend their support to Arya’s crusade. Queen Boleyn didn’t trust Kahlem or his motives. Smart girl. Perhaps the young Queen isn’t as inept as Arya has been led to believe.
The first thing Arya does once she returns home is tell Alara everything she’s learned about their origin from Malich. Alara isn’t surprised. In fact, she smiles. “It makes sense. I can trace the path, present, and future of everyone I come into contact with, but when I try tracing our past, I’m met with a wall of light. It’s as if that part of our life is blocked somehow.”
Alara suddenly goes stiff. She knows something. “What is it?” Arya asks. Alara quickly covers up whatever she’s feeling with a smile.
“Nothing.” She lies.
Malich isn’t the only person in her life who likes to keep secrets. Arya still doesn’t know who fathered her sister’s child.
Drakor reaches out to Arya through their bond. She cuts her conversation with Alara short, and heads out to the garden where Drakor often rests. The beautiful creature meets her in the middle of the garden, and touches down as gently as he can.
He looks as if he’s grown even bigger since the last time she saw him. She reaches up to rub his long leathery snout. His scales are as sharp as razors with a faint glow from the fire and heat inside his lungs.
“What is it?” Arya asks, sensing his troubled spirit.
She trails her fingers along Drakor’s thick red leather skin, examining him from head to toe as he worriedly trails her movements. There isn’t a mark on him, but he’s uneasy about something. He nudges her lovingly in her side with his snout and she laughs.
Arya sends soothing words down the bond and Drakor purrs in response. Whatever his troubles are, he quickly forgets them as he takes off into the sky. Something has upset him, but she isn’t sure what yet.
“Arya?” Ihsan calls out her name. He’s standing in the doorway to the garden. She hopes he has Malich’s mother because it’s the only way she won’t have to kill the man she loves.
Ihsan is smiling, which is always a good thing. Everything must’ve gone according to plan. “Please tell me you have her,” her heart clenches.
“She’s in one of the guestrooms,” Ihsan nods. Arya sighs with relief. “Kahlem spared her the darkbane influence. It appears his knowledge and cunning within the Courts all these years have come from her. He’s been using her as an advisor.”
“How is she otherwise?”
“Eager to reunite with the King of the Winter Court and her husband.”
Arya stops and turns to Ihsan. He’s been very instrumental in helping to recover Queen Jarrah. Given that her son is responsible for some of his pain, Arya is and always will be forever in his debt. “Thank you,” she smiles. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“Yes, well I didn’t do it for him,” Ihsan offers a small smile.
“I know,” Arya smiles back. “It’s still very noble of you.”
“If only being noble got you the girl,” he smirks. Arya’s mouth drops open and Ihsan huffs a laugh. “Oh come on Arya, don’t act so surprised. I was taught to be noble and good when I was younger but what good has that done me? I ended up exiled, imprisoned, turned into a slave and abandoned by my own mother. Yet, Malich is one of the biggest arseholes within the Planes and everybody loves him, including you.”
Arya swallows hard. “He’s not always an arsehole.” Ihsan raises an objective brow at her and she laughs, “Okay, maybe he is, but there are good parts to him too.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Ihsan laughs, shaking his head.
With war brewing, Ihsan and his soldiers are residing at the Seelie Court while his sister Imani reigns in his absence. It’s given the two of them time to talk and get to know each other again.
Truthfully, nothing about him has changed. Even after his mother abandoned him and his sister, he still makes sure she and her betrothed live well. With everything he’s told her about his mother, Arya’s surprised he hasn’t killed her yet. She certainly deserves it. Once they’re betrothed, she wonders how long it will be before she’s tempted to kill his mother herself.
The more time they spend together, the more Arya is reminded of the qualities she loved most about him. He still has a heart of gold, he’s still funny, and he’s still as noble as they come.
Ihsan holds his elbow out and she loops her arm through his. “How is Drakor?” Ihsan asks. “Amunet seems a bit on edge as of late.”
Knitting her brow together she comments, “So does Drakor. He’s worried about something and it’s so strong that I can still feel it down the bond. Something is wrong.”
“I feel it too.”
“Have you checked in with Imani?”
Ihsan nods. “All is quiet on that front.”
“I’ll have Evander increase the rounds and check with our allies.”
Ihsan nods and they head to the Great Hall for Lumi’s betrothal. As the future King of the Seelie Court, Ihsan stands at Arya’s side while a cleric officiates Lumi and Jax’s nuptials. Lumi’s dark hair is braided back and adorned with white flowers from the Seelie Court. She wears a white lace dress that trails behind her at least two feet, making her look the picture of true royalty. The neckline dips, making the dress look as seductive as Lumi herself.
Jax holds his own in white breeches tied at the waist, a white vest with silver embroidery and trimming, a white tunic, and black riding boots.
Witnessing their exchange makes Arya think about her own impending nuptials to Ihsan and her failed engagement to Malich. Glancing sidelong at Ihsan, she wonders if she’s making the right decision. She loves him, but she struggles with allowing herself to. If Malich were to come for her, she’d be torn yet again.
Ihsan squeezes her hand and she realizes he’s watching her. She offers him a smile in return and shoves all thoughts of Malich to the back of her mind.
Lumi and Jax seal their union with a kiss and the room erupts in applause. Arya inclines her head to them and they both curtsy to her in return. The ceremony is moved to the dining hall where a feast has been prepared in their honor.
Lumi is practically glowing. Arya couldn’t be happier for her friend. She glances sidelong at Ihsan for the second time, and he meets her gaze, lacing his fingers with hers. Her heart flutters and she wars with herself, wanting to let her guard down and let him in. If only letting him in didn’t mean betraying Malich…
Again she shoves all thoughts of him to the back of her mind, leans in closer, and presses her lips to Ihsan’s. She welcomes the feeling radiating through her body at the touch of his lips, even though she’s not sure if she should.ns 22.214.171.124da2