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A Soul of Ash and Blood: Chapter 50


I’d found the sleeping draft shortly after the Duchess left. The vial was in the drawer of her nightstand. I removed it from the chambers. Poppy could get as angry as she wanted with me. I didn’t care. She needed to be eating and drinking, not drugging herself into oblivion.

The good news was that Poppy was no longer sleeping.

The bad news was me.

I was the bad news for her as I stalked through Wisher’s Grove, spotting Poppy’s cloaked figure ahead of me in the moonlight. I would’ve left her ass drugged if I’d known she would sneak out of her quarters the first chance she got. And while I was all about letting her explore to her heart’s content and more than curious to know exactly what she was up to, now wasn’t the time for that.

Not when the Ascended were finding their vengeance at night for what had gone down at the Rite. Even now, the wind carried the scent of fresh blood. Come morning, bodies would be found in their homes and the streets, cold and waxen. And since many had no idea what Poppy looked like, her status would not protect her.

I reached down and unsheathed the dagger at my hip as Poppy’s steps slowed, and she made her way through a tangle of exposed roots. Flipping the dagger so I held the blade between my fingers, I narrowed my eyes. Wind gusted through the pines, sending needles to the ground as her cloak billowed around her.

Smiling, I threw the dagger.

Poppy yelped as the blade snagged her cloak, wrenching her backward. Catching herself, she reached for the dagger, tearing it free from where it had embedded in the roots.

“Don’t,” I warned as she started to turn to me, her arm already cocking back, “even think about it.”

She spun around. “You could’ve killed me!”

“Exactly,” I snarled, crossing the distance between us. “You wouldn’t have even seen it coming.”

Her gloved hand tightened around the dagger’s hilt. I couldn’t see her face within the shadows of her hood, but I sensed she was about to do something foolish with that blade.

I caught her wrist before she could. “I’ll take that back.” I pulled it free of her grasp as I glared down at her, but I kept an eye on her, knowing she’d likely brought a weapon with her, even though she wasn’t in possession of the wolven dagger. I was. “I see I will have to bar that door in your chamber.”

She let out a growl of frustration.

“That was adorable.” I sheathed the dagger. “It reminded me of a small, angry creature. A fluffy one.”

Poppy pulled on my hold.

“Not going to let you go. I prefer not to be kicked in the shin, Princess.” Another shower of needles rained down on us. “Where were you going?”

Nothing but silence came from her.

I wasn’t surprised to get that response. She hadn’t said much since she woke, but neither had I. Because I’d found myself in this weird predicament of not knowing what to say, and I also had something to say.

This was different.

She was.

I was.

This whole fucking thing felt different.

“Fine,” I snapped. “Don’t tell me. I don’t need to know what reckless thing you plotted to do. But what you need to know is that you’re not going to do something like this again. Things are far too unstable right now, and you are—”

“What? I’m too important to die? While no one else is?” she seethed, the sound of her voice like a punch to the chest. It was still raspy from the damage done by the screaming. From her pain. “Because I’m the Maiden—”

I hauled her against my chest, her words ending in a gasp. Anger pumped through me. I wasn’t sure if I was pissed at her or myself at the moment. “Like I said before, I don’t give a fuck that you’re the Maiden. I would think you would’ve realized that by now.”

She had no response for that either, which was great. Just dandy. I led her out of the jumble of roots, the sound of her voice still getting to me, and my chest still feeling like a three-hundred-pound wolven was sitting on it. This was why I hadn’t spoken much to her since she awakened. It was because of the role I’d played in her pain. The big role. The fucking only role. I would have to get over that.

We’d only taken a handful of steps when she spoke. “She knew,” she rasped.

A muscle ticked at my jaw. “Who?”


I frowned.

“She was at the Rite and warned—” Poppy drew in a shaky breath. “She warned us that the Dark One was planning something. Agnes knew more than she told us, and she could’ve warned us earlier.”

“Then what?” I questioned, keeping an eye on the darkness ahead as I heard a distant scream, one Poppy couldn’t hear.

“She could’ve prevented what happened,” she argued.

I shook my head. “One person couldn’t have prevented what occurred.”

“It would’ve helped,” she insisted, her voice giving out halfway.

It really wouldn’t have, but I knew there was no convincing her. “So, what were you planning to do? Find this Agnes and tell her this?”

“I didn’t plan to talk to her.”

“You planned to take your anger out on her?” I thought of that chest of weapons in her bedchamber. I’d likely have to remove that. “The one who attempted to warn you.”

“It wasn’t enough,” she hissed.

I could respect her desire for revenge and that damn fire in her. In any other situation, I might not have stopped her. But this? “It’s a good thing I’m here,” I said and almost laughed at my words as I slid my grip from her wrist to her hand.

“Really?” she said, no derision in her voice.

Now, it felt like two wolven were on my chest. “If you accomplished what you set out to do, you would’ve regretted it. Maybe not right now, but later, you would have.”

Poppy was quiet for several moments. “You really think that?”

I glanced down at her as her fingers curled around mine, but I couldn’t see her face.

“You’d be wrong,” she said.

“I’m never wrong.”

“This time, you would’ve been.”

Lifting my gaze to the crowded pines ahead, I squeezed her hand as I felt a reluctant smile hit my mouth. Somehow, that was more frustrating and infuriating than her midnight escapades.

More worrying.


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