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Powerless (The Powerless Trilogy): Chapter 50


I can’t tear my eyes from her.

I can’t tear my eyes from her.

I can’t stray my thoughts from her.

I can’t pry my body from her.

The morning sunlight spilling in from my window is glinting off her hair, the silver strands shining. Her eyes are shut in sleep, dark lashes laying against her cheeks and concealing the ocean blue gaze I know swims beneath. She is breathing deeply, sleeping soundly. She is a mess of tangled limbs and scattered hair.

A messy masterpiece.

I count the faint freckles dusting her nose. Once. Twice.


She shifts, and I still as she tucks her hands beneath the side of her face, now covered in strands of silver. Propped up on my elbow, I gently brush my fingers across her smooth skin, tucking her hair away so I can continue admiring the face I’d been in the middle of memorizing.

I blame her for the tiredness settling in my bones. It’s her fault I didn’t sleep much. I was up most of the night listening to her breathe—breathing her in. Just like I’ve been doing for far longer than I care to admit. She’s captivating, even while crumpled up and claimed by sleep.

Sighing, my fingers run through one last strand of silver hair before I ease off the bed and creep to the door. I leave on my thin pants and throw a shirt over my head before stepping into the hallway, heading for the kitchens. The least I could do is let her wake up to the smell of fresh food, especially after what she did for me last night.

After a nightmare in which I held her cold corpse, waking to find her very much alive and warm on top of me was startling to say the least. And I reacted without thinking. I hurt her. Though a little scratch means nothing to the girl who’s used to bleeding, it means everything to me. Killing is what I do. Killing and hurting are what I was trained to do, created to do, controlled to do.

But not with her.

I was one swift movement away from holding her very real corpse in my arms, and yet she did nothing to fight back. She held my face in her hands while I held her life in my own. She looked at me like I was worthy of being seen, like she wanted to see me. And when she said my name, the sound of it rolling off her tongue finally had my head clearing, heart racing, thoughts reeling.

And then I asked her something I have never asked of anyone before.


I’m out the door of the kitchen and balancing a tray of hot food down the hallway in a matter of minutes. The quirked brow Gail gave me makes me smile, and it’s not long before I’m leaning against my door and backing into the room, clutching the tray in front of me.

I turn around and—

A shoe is aimed at my face.

She’s standing at the edge of the bed, one hand clutching a blanket around her shoulders while the other clutches my dress shoe, a sorry excuse for a weapon. Her arm is cocked back, prepared to fend off the intruder by launching footwear. I see her exhale in relief when she realizes it’s me and reluctantly lowers the shoe. But barely.

“Not your typical weapon of choice.” I’m grinning, choking back a laugh.

Paedyn gives me an exasperated look that I’ve grown very familiar with. “You scared me.” She sweeps back the curtain of hair shielding her eyes with a smug smile. “And I’m sure I could do a lot of damage with a shoe.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt it.”

I’m in front of her now, though I don’t remember moving to get there. Reaching around her back slowly, I place the tray on my bed, juice sloshing over the edge of cups and biscuits rolling. Then I straighten, staring down into eyes that threaten to drown me. “Good morning, Gray.”

The slightest frown tugs at her lips with the use of her last name. “Back to formalities, are we?” She says it casually, but her eyes speak a question she will never voice.

What is going on between us?

“Well, you were just about to attack me. Formalities seem fair.” I take a step closer, and she tips her head back to hold my gaze.

“Yes, well, you should be used to that by now.”

“Oh, but I doubt I’ll ever get used to you or your violent tendencies, darling.”

She gives me a sly smile. “I like to think of it as keeping you on your toes, prince.”

“Yes, because life is far more entertaining when you aren’t expecting a knife to the throat or a shoe to the face.” My gaze drops to said shoe still clutched in her hand. “Speaking of which, still planning to use that on me?”

“Still deciding.”

The smile I give her is a real one, a rarity that has recently become a rather common occurrence when I’m in her presence. She turns her head to nod at the tray on my bed. “You brought me food.”

I cross my arms over my chest. “And how do you know that’s not for me?”

“There are blueberries on the porridge, Azer.”

Still wanting to play with her, I shrug. “After rambling about the fruit, you convinced me of how delicious they are.”

She outright laughs at that. “Then that would mean you’re admitting I was right, and that is highly unlikely.”

“You know me so well,” I sigh, smiling at her. “Of course the food is for you. I wouldn’t touch that porridge.”

A smile tugs at her lips. “Picky prince.”

“Clever Pae.”

We stare at one another, each of us smiling slightly.

My eyes drop to her free hand still clutching a blanket around her shoulders, pulling it tighter when my gaze sweeps over her. “Are you cold?”

She stiffens slightly. “No.”

“Then what is this?” I’m eying the blanket before my fingers graze over hers, the ones still fiercely fisted in the folds of fabric. Her gaze trails from my face to my hand that is now trailing over her knuckles, her wrist, her fist and the fabric in it.

The way her breath hitches has my heart halting. “It’s a blanket.”

My laugh is quiet. “I can see that, smartass.”

My fingers lazily brush down her arm, though the movement has my mind stalling, pulse skipping. Every touch is intoxicating, every look shared is entrancing.

“You look flushed, Gray.” My fingers catch a strand of long hair falling over her shoulder. “Probably thanks to the blanket.” I can feel the smirk spreading across my face as I say, “Unless I’m the reason for your blush.”

I watch the emotions flit across her face. First, there is something akin to what I’m sure is reflected in my own gaze—wanting. Then she blinks, and I glimpse shock, realization, and denial before she settles with annoyance.

“No, I’m definitely just overheating.” She’s confident as ever despite the strain in her voice.

I tilt my head, eyes dancing between the blanket and her cool gaze. “Then I suppose I’ll help you once again, only this time it will be a blanket dropping to the floor and not your dress nearly doing the same.”

I smile at the thought of the last ball, but before my fingers can close around hers, she lets the blanket billow down around her ankles.

She’s standing so close to me, wearing nothing but skimpy shorts and a silky tank. Teasing me, taunting me, toying with me. I hadn’t been able to see the black fabric clinging to her body last night, blending in with the darkness around us. But now I can see it, see her, clearly.

There is a fire in her eyes, burning and breathtaking. “Just to be clear, prince, I don’t need your help—undressing or otherwise.”

“Oh, of course not. Wishful thinking, I suppose.”

She huffs out a laugh. “And are you unable to help being a shameless flirt as well?”

“Apparently not when I’m with you.”

“Oh? And what else are you when you’re around me, hmm?”

She has me swallowing, has me nervous. “I’m a fool.”

The smile she gives me is equally amused and alluring. “Only when you’re around me?”

“Only for you.”

Her eyes lock with mine as she falls silent, suddenly still. I take a small step forward only for her to take a slight step back, her legs now pressed against the edge of the bed. I swallow, hiding my frown.

Why does she pull away?

“And since I’m also somehow kinder when I’m around you, I should thank you. Again.” I don’t think I’ve ever spoken so softly, so soothingly to someone before. And what scares me even more is that I don’t think I ever will for anyone but her.

My hand is suddenly brushing her wrist and I watch it trail up her arm, the ghost of a touch traveling across her skin. Goosebumps follow the path my fingers glide, bringing a smile to my lips.

Then I’m twirling that piece of silky hair around my finger again. “Thank you, Pae. For last night.”

She shivers, and yet, her flush is still very much present. I can’t fight the smile spreading across my face as I murmur, “Despite my wanting to help, you still seem to be overheating.”

“And you still seem to be to blame for that.” She nearly snaps the words, seemingly annoyed with herself.

I tuck that strand of silver hair behind her ear with a lazy grin, letting my fingers linger. “Are you admitting to me making you flushed? Making you nervous?

“Making me annoyed?” she supplies. “Because you certainly are doing that.”

I look away, shaking my head. “Liar.”

“Was it my left foot that gave me away or did you come to that conclusion on your own?” she asks evenly.

My gaze has shifted back to her, blue and bewilderingly beautiful. Then my eyes drop to her lips, soft and pulled into a frown she seems to be fighting to keep on her face.

I step even closer. She leans in.

“I can’t take my eyes off you long enough to give a damn about what your foot is doing. So yes, I came to that conclusion on my own.”

Her gaze is burning, boring into mine, begging me to come closer.

So I do.

I can’t stay away from her.

I don’t want to stay away from her.

I’m sweeping hair out of her eyes, letting my fingers skim her skin. Simply touching her sends a shock through me, sets my heart racing. And I know she feels it too. Her eyes are flicking between mine and my mouth, lashes fluttering.

I can’t do it anymore. I can’t stop myself from wanting this. Wanting her.

I shift closer, her lips part, and—

And there is something digging into my throat.

What the hell—

She has the damn shoe pressed against my neck.

“I should go.” Her words are barely more than a whisper murmured against my lips as if she is speaking to herself, reminding me of our time under the willow when she uttered those same unsure words.

I clear my throat, untangle my hands from her hair, and straighten.

What the hell just happened. And why the hell didn’t something just happen.

“Right. You’ll need plenty of time to get all dolled up for my brother tonight.” I don’t bother masking my bitterness, my jealousy, my confusion.

She wants to see me without a mask? Fine. Let her see it all. Let her see my frustration with the feelings she is to blame for.

She flinches.

The girl who has slain wolves, scaled mountains, and survived the slums just flinched. I’ve never seen anything like it. Never thought I would. The sight has my heart sinking, has me wanting to pull her into my arms and hold her there.

But instead, I find myself taking a measured step back, putting space between us. I don’t trust myself around her. Don’t trust myself not to reach out and touch her, taste her.

She opens her mouth, warring against the words she desperately wants to say. The ones I never get to hear because she clamps her jaw shut, sealing her thoughts from me. I watch her for several, slow seconds. Watch her take a deep breath before leveling me with a calm stare.

“You’re welcome,” she says softly. “For last night. No one should have to endure the terrors of their own thoughts alone. Nightmares can be our worst nemesis. I know what that’s like.”

And then she grabs my hand and drops the shoe into it before striding out of the room.

I’m contemplating getting drunk again.

The alcohol swirling in the glass gripped between my fingers is tempting, teasing me to finish it off before following it with a few more. All just so I can get through this last damn ball.

Couples have begun dancing now that the flow of women arriving has slowed significantly. It seems that this final ball will be the only hint of normalcy in this year’s Trials.

I traded Blair off to a young gentleman for a glass of wine, and I’m wondering why I hadn’t done it sooner. While contemplating whether to down the remaining contents of my drink, I look up to find a group of ladies surrounding me, all clad in varying shades of green. They are all giggles and grins while I nod and talk politely, boring myself with how bland I’m being.

I’m just about to make my exit from the conversation using a mediocre excuse when someone catches my eye.

Someone who has me stunned and staring.

Someone who is standing in a sea of black.

Draped in midnight fabric, the faint sparkles dusting her dress wink like starlight. Like a shadow, the fabric clings to her body. Like a second skin, it outlines her curves as she steps down the stairs.

Her tanned arms and chest glisten against the inky fabric wrapped around her. From her waist up, the dress is a detailed corset, cinching her in and displaying her chest and collarbones. The stomach of the corset is see-through, with designs of swirling flowers and beads contrasting against the tan skin showing beneath it. Loose strips of black, intricate sleeves connect to the top of the corset and hang off her shoulders limply.

Layers of satin spill from her waist to the floor in a wide pool around her. My eyes trail up her bare legs, exposed through the slits traveling up both sides of the dress and ending high up her thighs. And there, strapped and displayed for all to see is her silver dagger, its swirled handle matching her attire.

Her silver hair is pulled into a loose not near the nape of her neck, ringlets falling from it onto her back and around her face, tempting me to twirl my fingers through them, tuck them behind her ears.

Every bit of her body is clad in darkness, cloaked in night. I find myself silently thanking the Plague for her different, dark attire because I wouldn’t want her blending in. Wouldn’t want her lost in the crowd.

Not that she’s ever had that problem before.

Not that I’ve ever had a problem finding her before.

The sight of her in jet black is enough to make me colorblind, make me see nothing and no one but her.

Her legs slide through the slits in her dress as she steps down the staircase, dagger clearly visible. Hundreds of eyes track her every move, and I’m suddenly jealous that everyone else gets to witness her presence with me.

She won’t meet my gaze, and for the first time since I met her in that alley, I think this is the most cowardly she’s ever been.

She’s scared. Scared of whatever it is between us. She always has been. That’s why she chose to be my enemy, my rival, rather than let herself feel—which is something I’m not accustomed to myself.

I blame her for it. Blame her for cracking my carefully crafted mask, shattering it to pieces when she is around. I’ve never felt so much, never feared so much. But if I must endure the consequences that feeling something for her brings, then so does she.

It’s like a tangible tether between us, this consuming connection.

I will her to meet my eyes, and when they do—



Everything beautiful, everything bold, everything breathtaking—that is what I feel in her gaze.

That, and terrified. Terrified of what she is doing to me.

She is a vision, a nightmare, a dream.

A grim reaper clad in black, come to steal my soul and my heart.

I’ve never seen something so beautiful, so bold, so blatantly wrong for me.

She is a devil.

She is a deity.

She is a man’s downfall in human form.

She is my downfall.

Then her eyes drift to Kitt.

The connection snaps.

And I’m left feeling empty besides the jealousy growing inside of me.

Why did I ever think I could have her, ever think she would have me?

Because beasts don’t get the beauty.


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