Loving The Forbidden Prince - Chapter 134 - Cannot Steal It
He stared at this woman, standing before him tall and proud, and shook his head. She wanted him to lie to his wife, to pretend to love another—or at least, to not love her? To betray her trust and leave Ayleth in her hands when she’d just told him she would kill her?
“Ayleth is my wife,” he spat. “You cannot steal that from us. You cannot change that, no matter what lies you wish me to spew.”
“I’m not expecting to steal that from you, stupid boy,” she bit back. “I am expecting you to betray your vows, and my daughter, in order to save her life. You vowed. There is nothing you wouldn’t do, you said. Well, prove it! Unless you would break your blood vow—do not expect it to save her life, though.”
Etan’s heart pounded in his ears so hard he couldn’t hear her anymore. His hands twitched for her neck, and his rage was volcanic—a rush of heat and power that surged in his chest and threatened to…
He wanted to kill her.
He had never in his life desired to kill another man, let alone woman. He had been angry. Had even wanted to see someone removed from the world to solve a problem. But never… never had he wished to squeeze the life out of another person himself.
He stared at her, mouth half-open and had to step back so she was out of reach. He did not trust himself not to act on the impulse if she came close again.
While she continued to remind him of her plot, her sick and twisted plan to keep Ayleth from him, to take Ayleth’s life if he did not remove himself, he began to pace. Hands in his hair, breath heaving, he searched for some way, any way through this that didn’t involve giving the Queen her way, or seeing Ayleth dead. But he could not find it.
He could not find it.
“What will it be, Lord Summit?” the Queen said through her teeth. “Your marriage, or your wife’s life?”
“Just give me a damned minute to think!”
“You want a minute to find your way out of this, and you won’t. But I will wait until you can see it.”
She clasped her hands at her waist and watched him, smiling like a cat that had trapped a mouse.
And that was how he felt.
“She would not believe it,” he said, recoiling from the images in his mind of Ayleth watching him claim another as his betrothed. “She knows my devotion to her. She knows my love is real.”
“She is young and naïve—no matter that you took her virtue. When she sees evidence that contradicts her feelings, she will come to believe it. Especially if you do not tell her otherwise.” The Queen eyed him stonily. “Do not try to force my hand by telling her of this. If she confronts me about this, I will have lost her heart anyway. I will still kill her.”
Etan shook his head. “I truly thought you loved her—”
“I do!” she hissed. “And because I love her I cannot leave her in your hands—Summitran hands! I will not provide power to my enemy—most especially through my own daughter. I would rather lose her myself than have her provide anything to you or your Kingdom.”
“You would cut your own nose off to spite your face? You would slaughter your own daughter to stop your enemy… loving her?!”
The Queen’s eyes narrowed. “You know, I had hopes for you as a man of the world. I thought maybe we might work together. You could have had my daughter if you were not so fucking righteous. If you were not so single-minded. But I see now, you are not a man at all, but a naïve boy.” She stepped closer and Etan braced himself not to give in to the urge to make his own slaughter. “Perhaps this is a lesson you must learn,” she hissed. “There is nothing undefiled in this world. Nothing untainted. If you wish to succeed, you must be willing to take whatever is necessary, and give nothing to anyone who might use it against you.
“And if you want to rule, you must be willing to lose anything to keep power in your grip. You may sneer at me now, you child. But wait until your day comes. Learn what a true King must face, and what he must decide, and then come stare me in the eye and tell me you have not been touched by darkness.”
Etan snorted. “A very righteous speech from someone who holds a knife to her own daughter’s throat.” He stepped right up, using his height to make her crane her neck. “I thought you loved her. I thought the things you’d taught her were meant to prepare her for the world. But no, you only molded her to make her in your own image. And you failed. Do you realize that? You failed.”
Her eyes widened and Etan smiled. “And you’re wrong. Your daughter is evidence of your untruth. She loves with a pure heart—she forgave an enemy and sought peace when she had every opportunity to win, as you would see it.” He leaned his head down until they were nose to nose. “She could have called me out and had me killed. My parents would have been assassinated, or banished. No longer in the Peace Accord. But what did she do? She loved me back. And there is nothing you can do about that. If both of us die, our love will still be the truth you could not fight. You cannot steal it. It is already done. Already achieved. Already real.” He stared at her, sneering. “Call me a child if you wish. I could have had your head three times before now and I did not. Because I love your daughter, and she loves you. I will not kill her heart for my own gain. That is the true difference between you and I. I do not use her as a pawn, but hold her up as precious.”
He glared and the Queen glared in return. But then she made a low huff and stepped back, eyes ablaze. “I tire of this. I have presented you the choice that you have.. Now tell me, which it will be. My daughter’s life? Or your marriage?”