Ruling Sikthand: Chapter 38

The last week and a half had passed in a daze. Sikthand’s mind was clouded over.

Every moment that he spent with Sophia was utter bliss. No longer torturing himself with the delusion he had the ability to stay away from her had left him happier than he’d ever been.

They did everything they could together. Talked, fucked, ate, bathed, worked. The only thing he couldn’t seem to do was sleep.

The exhaustion was wearing on him. Each night she writhed underneath him, begging for his touch in a way that filled him with unparalleled satisfaction. When they’d fucked themselves out of all their energy, she’d ask him to stay.

Sikthand wanted to sleep with her. He closed his eyes each night with Sophia clasped in his arms, his purr heavy in his chest, and tried and tried and tried. But sleep never came.

Thoughts would creep into his mind in the black of the night. He ignored them, but couldn’t keep them from affecting his subconscious. Every action of hers told him she wanted him, that she might even love him, but he couldn’t quite settle the building dread the closer they got to the Leaders’ Summit.

One day he would heal, he tried to convince himself. One day, he would hold her close and take in her smell and fall asleep. The morning that he woke up with her wrapped in his arms would be the beginning of a new life.

Perhaps today would bring him one step closer.

Sophia sprawled out on his bed as he packed and dressed for the Leaders’ Summit. His heart ached just looking at her.

“Remember, you have to make sure to argue my case to everyone else too. I know it’s a long shot, but I really think Asivva is the best choice. Not only is she super smart and super accomplished, but she’s already familiar with humans, and—cherry on top—she has a freaking half-human niece! She’s perfect.”

Sikthand grinned down at her.

A knot twisted in his gut, dimming his smile. Two days was too long to be gone.

His jaw clenched. Why couldn’t he just let go of these vile dregs of distrust? Sophia was nothing like Japeshi. She was warm and open, and she didn’t hide her anger or her dislike. Whenever he pissed her off, she told him.

His idea to close their wedding to the public had been short-lived. He’d announced the decision to the Guild without first confirming with her, and she’d seethed at him about it that night.

Running his decisions by another person was a new concept for Sikthand. He’d been a solitary king for so long, it was second nature for him to believe his choices were final. Sophia had let him know differently.

Though his chest had puffed indignantly and the instinct to shut her down burned bright, he’d forced himself to remember that she would be his queen. Sophia was his partner now. And more than that. He loved her. He valued what she had to say. Even if he didn’t ultimately agree with her position, hearing her out and compromising was the right thing to do.

It helped that they never critiqued each other publicly. Throughout the tower they presented a solid, unified force. But when they were alone, they were free. Their wing was for fighting and lovemaking and laughing. In here, honesty reigned.

He’d told her everything. How he’d watched her, how he’d followed her, how he’d taken himself in hand each night and thought of her mouth and her tailless ass as he’d pumped himself dry.

He’d revealed his maze of tunnels and walked her through the hidden bowels of Vrulatica, describing his childhood and grinning as she’d told him about hers.

He wished he could have met her then, when they’d both been young. A gangly prince mostly known for vomiting an impressive amount while getting tattooed, and a pimply, bespectacled girl, who spent her time dressing in silly outfits and acting in plays.

She would have made his life brighter even then.

The only thing he held back from her was the fact that he’d read her mail. He’d tell her after their wedding. After it was clear beyond a doubt that she’d turned down King Cueyar. His chest constricted.

She had turned him down. He knew it. Old wounds just wouldn’t let him believe it yet. She’d prove it to him in two weeks at their wedding. He refused to give in to his paranoia any longer. He’d fight against it for her. She deserved his trust. She didn’t deserve to be questioned and forced to prove her loyalty.

His eyes fell to her neck, and his insides heated.

Not when she strolled around their city with a tattoo of his bite marks proudly displayed on her throat for all to see.

Khes’ eyes had nearly bugged out of his ancient head when she’d described the tattoo she’d wanted. She’d waited until the bruises from Sikthand’s bite had mostly healed, then forced Khes to outline the marks in a way that must have hurt like hell.

He stepped toward her and gently pulled her head to the side so he could kiss the marks. Sikthand did this often, and he loved the way she shivered and sighed each time.

He sat on the bed next to her as she sketched out a back-tattoo design she was creating for him. His tattoos were almost replaced. Khes came up many evenings to work on them, and having Sophia there always made the pain oddly manageable.

Everything was better when she was there. There was no part of his miserable life that her mere presence didn’t improve.

If anyone other than leaders and their right-hand officials were allowed to go to the Summit, he’d be dragging her along. But alas, she was not yet throned.

She glanced up at him, then did a double take, noticing his inner turmoil in his expression. She rose to her knees, her brows drawing together. “What’s wrong? Are you nervous? Don’t be nervous.”

“I love you, Sophia.” Though he didn’t know why, the words came out like a plea.

He watched her chest rise, then go still. A slow smile lifted her face, her eyes glassing over with tears. “I…” Her voice cracked, so she swallowed and tried again. “I love you too.”

Sikthand swelled with happiness until he was sure his metal armor would crack. He had the oddest instinct to undermine her statement, to excuse her from her words and remind her that she didn’t have to say them just because he wanted to hear them. But his throat closed.

He searched her beaming face, hoping to the skies that her words and the warm glow of love shining from her smile could be believed.

Before he could think what more to say, she bolted into his lap and kissed him so deeply, his tail curled.

It took him many hours to pry himself away from Sophia, and by that time, he was late. He flew with Ahea away from the city limits to the area where cruisers worked. Commander Roldroth was already waiting for him, a slight look of annoyance tightening his hood.

The two males stuffed themselves into the tight metallic transportation orb others called cruisers—but Vrulans called sightless prisons—with twin scowls.

How the rest of the world preferred this confined space with no view of the sky was beyond him. Even before they took off, nausea built in Sikthand’s gut.

With each moment that passed, he had to fight with himself not to turn the cruiser around. Moving in any direction but toward Sophia felt…wrong. He was meant to be wherever she was.

“Are you troubled, sire?” Roldroth asked after about an hour of silence. “We believe most of Madam Kalos’ underlings have been located, Zommah’s apprentice is back with his grateful family, and the new Madam of trade has surprised us all with how quickly she’s adapting to the role. The threat is neutralized. Is there something else weighing on you?”

He glanced toward Roldroth and found his hood had lost some of its color. Maybe it was his exhaustion, but he suddenly found himself too tired to hold back his words. “I dislike leaving Sophia.”

“Are you worried she’ll exercise more power than she yet has a right to?”

“No,” he barked immediately. Sophia would make a wonderful queen. Fair and firm and more compassionate than any Vrulan.

Roldroth hummed out an unsurprised sound. “Then perhaps the rumors are true and you are besotted.”

Sikthand eyed the commander. “Rumors, huh?” He sighed. “Is that what they say? Besotted?”

Roldroth tipped his head from side to side. “They say love.” The commander studied his reaction, seemingly trying to gauge how much truth there was in the statement. When Sikthand didn’t answer, Roldroth went on. “They wonder when your marks will appear.”

He scoffed, glancing down at his gloved hands. He’d hardly allowed himself to ponder such a thing. He wanted too badly for it to be true, for Sophia to be his mate. He didn’t allow himself to dwell, though. If hope infected him and the marks never came, it would hurt all the more. Still, he didn’t deny Roldroth’s words, and the male shifted forward in his seat, a tempered awe lighting his expression.

“What does it feel like?”

“I have no marks,” Sikthand grated.

“Then your love.” Roldroth shrugged. “Even that is so rare these days. Females don’t usually allow it or reciprocate it, but Sophia watches you as if her heart will stop if you don’t gaze back.”

A small smile tugged at his lips. He glanced at the male, not the commander, not Roldroth—just a male. He saw a familiar loneliness behind his eyes. Perhaps it was Sophia making him weak, but he decided to consider an honest answer.

“My life has been…wrought. Each day is filled with dread and suspicion and fixation.” He glanced at the floor, his brows knitting. “She brings me silence.” Sikthand swallowed down the tightness in his throat. “The clouds are not so heavy when she’s near.”

Roldroth let out a deep exhale and sat back in his seat. He fell into silent contemplation after that.

A sick feeling lingered in Sikthand’s gut. He tried to will it away, but as they drew farther and farther from Vrulatica, it grew.


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