Crimes of Ice
The unseelie prince’s gaze left me breathless. Every square inch of my body was aware of his, and even though he sat across the cafeteria, he could have been right next to me with his fingertips tracing my skin.
His blood bound us together, something neither of us expected. Or wanted.
Viktor Hale had saved me multiple times since my incarceration at Wayward Fae Penitentiary. But now that I’d helped him destroy the stone, would he resume his role as my tormentor?
Unable to bear the weight of his intensity, I broke the stare-off with Viktor. Amongst the Fae crowding the round tables and plastic chairs, a strict division between the shifters and daemons now existed. Tension that had nothing to do with me thickened the air. Even the guards patrolling along the perimeter and the balcony above moved rigidly, on edge as if a fight could break out any moment.
“You got a lot of nerve showing up without a bodyguard.” Maria, my favorite dochar, blocked my path, her dark eyes like coal ready to be ignited. “After what you did, I’d be hiding under a rock if I were you.”
I scoffed. “What about the crap the shifters and your wonderful leader Faolan did? The daemons know they’ve been mind-controlled for the last few months.” I jerked my chin to the group of glaring Fae on the left. “You might want to take your own advice and crawl under a rock before one of them sucks your energy dry.”
Her hands curled into tight fists by her sides, and she trembled with the effort it took to keep her human form. “Watch your back, seelie-dae. Faolan isn’t going to let this go. He’ll be back to finish the job.” A smile twitched at her lips as she examined the healing wound on my neck.
I ground my molars to cut off the shivers before they started. I’d almost died by the hand of that douche bag. Again.
Faolan had been dragged away by the guards and tossed into the iron hole for an undetermined amount of time. Sending him to another prison would be the best-case scenario. Letting him out of that hole even with a goblin bracelet—he made it perfectly clear he had a key—could very well be the death of me.
I’d better be prepared to fend off another attack by the alpha dochar.
Maria flicked her long mane of raven hair and marched by, bumping my shoulder. I rolled my eyes. Real mature.
That familiar stare burned the side of my face again, and when I turned around to meet Viktor head-on, I jolted from the intense urge to go to him tearing through my muscles, but would I find friend or foe?
Carrying out my end of the deal with Isadora would be so much easier if we were enemies. Then I wouldn’t feel like a horrible, soulless monster for plotting his murder. But killing Viktor was the only way to save my sister, and if I failed to deliver, the queen would toss Jilly back into the foster system without me to protect her.
I marched toward the food line and grabbed a dented tray, sliding it across the counter. I couldn’t let Jilly be ruined. That sweet, little girl deserved so much better. Ever since social services dropped her off at the Radcliff home three years ago, I’d tried to keep the bad things from touching her.
I couldn’t fail her now.
My stomach rolled as an inmate slopped meatloaf and mashed potatoes onto my tray where the grayish gravy ran down the soupy mounds and puddled together.
Nope. Eating was a no-go.
I tossed the food into the trashcan and barged out of the door with that heavy, unmistakable stare following my every move. My lungs could hardly draw in a full breath from the weight settling on my shoulders. The guilt of what I had to do encased me in cement and plunged me to the bottom of a murky lake.
My life had imploded the day I killed my foster parents and was taken to one of the Fae Investigation and Corrections headquarters. The F.I.C. officers practically handed me over to the queen on a silver platter.
“Sloane!” Viktor’s gruff voice crashed into my back like a ton of bricks, but my steps didn’t falter. If anything, my gait quickened as did my pulse. Would he admit the truce between us was over?
Calloused fingers curled around my wrist to yank me into a dark corner where a large form pressed my body into the cold cinderblock wall, heat and electricity spilling over my exposed skin. “Why are you running from me?”
I avoided those wintry gray eyes and traced a minuscule crack in the cement floor with the tip of my boot. “I wasn’t running from you.”
“Then why did you bolt out of the cafeteria and ignore me when I called your name?” His fingers brushed over my cheek, the touch too soft and gentle to come from such a feared, powerful Fae. “And why won’t you look at me?” He tilted my face toward his, forcing me to meet his gaze.
My heart crashed against my ribs like the sea battering the coast in a hurricane. I could hardly breathe. “I, um, just wanted to lie down.”
A line formed between his brows as he examined me. “What’s wrong? Are you not feeling well?” His thumb gently traced the area around Faolan’s bite.
“I’m just tired.” I swallowed hard, flailing for an excuse to escape his overwhelming presence. My brain couldn’t fire on all cylinders with him this close. Hair so black a blue tinge lingered fell into his face, and my fingers itched to brush the strands back.
Viktor’s head cocked to the side. “Are you afraid of me?”
“Why would you think that?” I was afraid he’d uncover my real motives and rip my life away before I had the chance to do the same to him.
And I feared the betrayal in his eyes when the time came to hold up my end of the deal with Isadora.
His hand rested right below the left side of my collarbone. “Because your heart is going a hundred miles a minute.”
I frowned. “It is not.”
“Yes, it is.” His grip loosely cinched my arm as he lifted it and pressed my palm over his chest. “Mine is doing the same thing.”
Sure enough, Viktor’s heart tapped out the same frantic beat as mine. “Another side effect?”
He nodded. “It seems our hearts try to mirror each other when we’re close.”
A killer and her soon-to-be victim shared a bond that grew stronger and stranger by the day. “I bet you really regret giving me your blood,” I muttered. “I destroyed the stone, but now you’re stuck with this weird connection to me, the mutt of the Fae world.”
“Is that what this is about?” He took a step back and crossed his arms, his t-shirt straining over his corded muscles. “Do you think now that you destroyed the stone, I’ll go back to hating you?”
I gave a noncommittal shrug. “My kind is responsible for your parents’ deaths. I wouldn’t blame you.”
Viktor’s humorless laugh bounced within the shadowy nook concealing us. “Honestly, if I could cut you out, I would. Being this close to anyone is too intimate, too invasive.” He shook his head as darkness gathered in his irises to mask the bits of vulnerability attempting to peek through. “I don’t like anyone being this close.”
This link wasn’t normal or wanted by either of us.
His gaze held mine, and I knew what was coming before it happened. I wanted to shut my lids against it, but my reflexes didn’t act fast enough.
We’re stuck with each other. There’s no point in denying it.
My breath caught from the echo of his deep, husky voice in my head. I choked back the lump clogging my esophagus, as words sped through my mind. Can’t we just ignore each other?
Viktor lessened the distance between us until his body brushed mine. Not an option.
His head dipped, and I lost sight of his eyes as his lips skimmed over my jaw. Warm tingles radiated all the way down my spine. “Ignoring you is impossible. Besides, this is a much better use of our time.”
My knees grew weak as Viktor spread kisses along my neck. “But what if we encounter other side effects, making this thing even more complicated?”
“We’ll deal with more side effects if they arise.” His fresh, heady scent swam over my senses to lull me into compliance. Desire and hunger swirled through my core, begging to let Viktor have his way with me. If I asked him to take me back to his cell right now, he’d happily oblige.
But would he change his tune if he knew that I’d inherited his frosty power?
“Vik, I need to tell—”
His fingers pressed over my lips to cut me off. “No talking.” He dragged his teeth along the sensitive skin of my neck, and I moaned at the sharp pleasure rippling through my belly. “If you keep making sounds like that, I’ll have to take you someplace more private.” He licked a trail over my throat, getting another soft gasp.
Shit. I melted under the unseelie prince’s touch. Why couldn’t he just keep going and never stop?
Viktor’s hands curled around my hips as he extinguished any space between us. “Maybe we should go somewhere—if you want.”
I wanted nothing more than to let Viktor Hale unravel me bit by bit until nothing remained, but allowing this bond to flourish would make fulfilling my end of the deal with Queen Isadora even harder. The task was already damn near impossible.
“I, um, I…” For shit’s sake, I couldn’t think with his mouth hovering over mine, a temptation most couldn’t resist.
Viktor’s tongue snaked out, flicking over my bottom lip before he bit down. I reached up and twisted my hands into his dark, silken strands.
Oops. I didn’t mean to do that.
He took that as permission and tilted his head, his tongue forcing my mouth open. What was I supposed to tell him…?
As if reminding me, ice spilled over my palm just as the kiss began.
Viktor wrenched back and grabbed my hand, his thumb running over the tiny ice crystals seeping over my skin. “What the fuck?”
“That’s what I was trying to tell you.” My lungs strained from only seconds of kissing him. “I have your ice power.”
“When did it start?” He scrutinized me so intensely my knees shook.
I licked my lips, tasting his sweet, addictive flavor. “When I was being held by the dochars in the basement. It just happened.”
Releasing a flurry of curses, he dragged his fingers through his hair. “So, the dochars saw you use this power?”
“Tiana and Marco, too.” I chewed on my bottom lip and waited for Viktor to hate me for inheriting his rare power. “I used it on the daemons when they attacked me in Faolan’s cell. I didn’t mean to.”
Viktor brought my hand closer to his face to further examine it. “No one has said anything. Maybe the daemons were too out of it from being controlled by Faolan, and perhaps the dochars were too occupied by bloodlust to notice what magic you used.”
I had to choke back the shivers from his exploratory touch. “Let’s hope that’s the case because no one would react well if they knew we had this weird connection.”
Viktor nodded. “An unseelie prince and a seelie-dae?” The heat in his stare as it dipped to my mouth made it clear he still wanted to kiss me. “They’d be afraid.”
And fear made people do stupid things.