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The Ever Queen: CHAPTER 39

THE SONGBIRD

Bells in the city rang out, gleeful and bright, while inside the palace was somber. I pressed my palm to the window, observing the sea, wishing we could sail away, even for a moment, and pretend like the risks we were facing were gone.

Now, they were made worse with a new, horrid scheme brought up by Jonas Eriksson. The damn fool. And the trouble was, everyone else seemed to agree with his foolish plans.

I wanted to scream.

“It’s all right to express troubles, Princess.” Stieg strode to my side, matching my gaze over the sea.

“Not when it will do no good. You all have agreed with Jonas, and I hate that I also see the merit.”

“Ah.” Stieg perched on the windowsill. “I’ve known Jonas Eriksson as long as you—the day he took his first breath—so do not think we aren’t equally unsettled. It’s bold and brazen. He is his father’s son. But it might be needed.”

I wrung my hands together. “I know. That is the trouble. This entire plan is laden in risk, and I will not always be with Erik, or you, or . . . I feel like I might break, Stieg. I feel like I am about to bend from the weight of it. How did you face war so many times?”

Stieg was rough around the edges. A fae that could draw out land storms as fiercely as Stormbringer could raise torrents on the sea. Scars dotted his toughened face, a bone pierced the center of his nose, but his eyes were never anything but deep, thoughtful, and kind.

A most trusted warrior since the earliest days of my parents’ rise to their thrones.

I could tell him anything and there would never be judgment or harsh words.

“Much like you are doing now.” He patted my cheek gently. “I have stepped onto battlefields across our realms. Been a prisoner more than once, and come to care for too many damn people. But it has become those same people that keep me pressing forward and fighting whatever threatens them.”

“It’s changing me, Stieg. Larsson, like so many others, underestimates Erik, and I want him to—I want him to fall at Erik Bloodsinger’s feet, so he might see the true Ever King take his place at long last. I think such vile things, brutal and bloody. Whenever we return, I’m not sure our folk will know me.”

“Unless this is the Livia Ferus you were always meant to be.”

When I remained silent too long, Stieg squared to me, plopping his large palms on my shoulders.

“Our choices, our actions, they chip away at us, shaping us, whittling out our potential. It is what we do with that potential that makes us who we are. Sometimes our choices are brutal, even wicked,” Stieg went on. “But each one will carve a piece of us.”

“And if I choose Erik’s life over countless others? Erik always says he is not a hero because there are no lines he will not cross to keep me safe. I admit, I feel much the same for him, for my family. Does that make us any better than Larsson?”

Stieg popped one shoulder. “If I must choose between two bloodthirsty men, I would rather stand by a fiend who fights for his love than a fiend who fights for himself.”

I hugged Stieg’s arm. “You’ve always stood by him, from his youngest turns. He respects you, I hope you know.”

“Erik would’ve come with me if Harald had not taken him after Thorvald’s death. Did you know that?”

“What do you mean?”

“It is a shame Thorvald never saw his son for what he was. The whole time we were imprisoned, this tiny sea fae boy never faltered. He was brave as any warrior.” Stieg chuckled almost wistful. “I’d formed a connection to him, of course, and if his father had no care for him, or never returned, I told our folk I wanted him.”

My lips parted. “You would’ve . . . raised Erik?”

Stieg cleared his throat. “That was the plan.”

The warrior would not admit it, but I could see—it had been more than a plan. It had been a hope.

“When you say it is hard to face battle, I assure you, I understand.” Stieg dropped his chin. “During the great war it was such a challenge to ever see Erik as an enemy. I always saw him a little bit as mine, I suppose. You know I have no littles, but I thought I almost had one once.”

“That true, Warrior?”

My heart jumped to the back of my throat. Erik filled the doorway of the small room. Dressed in black, blades strapped over his body, he was a beautiful villain, ready for a damn war. He looked nowhere but at Stieg.

“Does it surprise you, Erik?” Stieg asked, voice low. “I told you as much when you were small.”

Erik looked to me for half a breath, then schooled his gaze onto the floorboards. “To soothe me, when I couldn’t sleep.”

“Afraid I don’t have the talent of lying to young ones. All those future adventures, all those talks of the place I’d make for you in my house, I meant them.” Stieg crossed the room. Erik was stiff, his fists clenched at his sides when Stieg gripped his shoulder. “I did not want to say farewell the day your father was killed; I wanted you to stay. But I can’t help but wonder if fate always had a plan for you, and if it has worked out exactly as it should’ve.”

Stieg gave me a tender look before slapping Erik’s shoulder once more and fading into the corridor, leaving us alone.

Erik blinked, unsteady, a little lost. Gently, I eased my arms around his waist, until the glow of his crimson eyes locked with mine.

“Serpent.”

He cleared his throat. “Songbird.”

“You’ve always been mine,” I whispered. “But I think you’ve always been all of ours, even if you didn’t know it. You’re not alone, Erik Bloodsinger. You never really were.”

Erik kissed me. From sweet to frenzied in a breath, as though the words he could not find regarding the confession spilled out in his touch, his tongue, his body pressed to mine.

My back struck the wall. His hands roved up my ribs, palmed one breast. I moaned into his kiss.

Breathless, I nudged him away enough to speak unhindered. “We’re not set to meet just yet, right?”

Erik’s teeth flashed in the sunlight. “Not for at least a chime, Songbird.”

“Good.” Perhaps it was the looming battle, perhaps it was the unknowns of each tomorrow, but there was a desperation in every moment I could steal away with the Ever King.

No mistake, soon solitude would be impossible once our moves were set to stand against Larsson. I would not waste an opportunity. Hands clasped, Erik led me from the palace to the private sea caves just below the gardens.

Erik spun me around, pressing my back to the soft stone. Before he could make another move, I ghosted my fingers over his straining cock.

Erik let out a rough gasp and gripped my chin, drawing our mouths close. “You, Songbird, are more maddening than a siren’s song. Do what you will with me, so long as this—” His palm covered the place over my heart. “Is always mine.”

“Into the Otherworld, Serpent.”

My body rocked against his, arms choking around his neck. Erik hooked one of my legs around his waist, rubbing the bulge of his hard length against my core.

My stomach clenched in anticipation when I guided his hand up my inner thigh. He hummed his approval when his fingers slid across the wet heat of my entrance.

Only balanced on one leg, when Erik thrust two fingers to the second knuckles inside me, I stumbled onto my toes, nearly toppling. His arm circled my waist, his breath heated my lips when he spoke. “So slick for me, love. Gods, you love to drive me mad, don’t you?”

Breathless whimpers rolled over my lips. I rocked up and down the two fingers speared into me, and I writhed as they curled and flicked and teased. One hand flattened on the rock wall of a sea cave, the other dug deep into Erik’s tousled hair, gripping at the roots, and slamming his mouth to mine.

Our teeth clacked, and Erik’s tongue narrowly missed my bite. Soon enough, if we did not watch ourselves, blood would be drawn, and this moment would be ruined if Erik had to sing me back to the living world. Still, the thought of marking his skin, of him marking mine, such a primal thought sent a rush of heat to my center. Doubtless, Erik’s fingers were soaked.

To prove my words, he let out a moan and added his thumb to the sensitive apex between my legs. “Livia, you’re perfect for me. So ready.” He pressed a frantic kiss to my throat, his body rutting into mine.

Breath escaped my lungs in half a gasp, half a sob. I pushed my hips into his, the thick strain of his length rubbed between us, the bulge catching against my entrance.

“Shit, love. Do that again.” Silver ribbons of light spread over Erik’s sharp features. His face twisted in pleasure, head back.

I unbuckled his belt and hooked my fingers in the waist, freeing his cock just enough to see the tip. With one hand, I lifted my skirt higher, and still with his fingers inside me, I glided my slit against the head of his length.

Erik choked on his own breath, then lifted his gaze, a fierce gleam in his eyes. He pulled back his hand and used it to hold onto his trousers as he dragged us deeper into the cave.

Sconces were nailed to the rock, leaving a haunting golden skein over our half-dressed bodies. Pools of warm, crystal water licked at our ankles. Misty air dampened our brows, and in moments we both looked as though we’d already spent many clock tolls wrapped in each other.

Back to the rocks, Erik unlaced my gown, letting it glide off my body in a heap around my ankles.

My head fell into the gentle trickle of water on the stones, and Erik licked droplets of water off my bared throat, down the ridges of my collar, between the cleft of my breasts. He pinched one nipple between his thumb and forefinger, and for the other, he took it between his teeth.

I panted, holding the back of his head, yearning for him to swallow the whole of me. With a wicked sort of smirk, the Ever King rolled the peak of my breast between his front teeth, adjusting his mouth until the sharp point of his elongated tooth sliced at the tip.

I cried out from the shock of vibrant pain, the bleed of heated pleasure that followed.

Erik flattened his tongue, lapping away the bead of blood off my skin, then kissed and sucked, soothing the ache. With a look, eyes no longer ember red but black as coals, Erik traded attention, biting and kissing and sucking the other breast, while palming the already ravished one in his rough palm.

“I need my name echoed in every cavern in this cave. I need to be inside you soon.”

“Don’t wait, Erik.”

He kissed me again. It was more than a kiss—it was stunning, attentive dominance. Without pulling back, he kicked off his trousers, then slammed my wrists over my head, pressing his naked hips against my aching core.

His mouth slid over my throat, the curve of my neck. Thoughts turned to sensation. I closed my eyes and gave in, allowing my body to move, to rock, to grind against my serpent until the prickle of heat pooled in my lower belly.

Erik’s lips parted, and his breaths were harsh, ragged. “So perfect, Songbird.”

“I need you,” I pleaded, mind lost in a haze.

A low rumble built from Erik’s throat, deeper than a snarl, more a dark growl. I’d anticipated he’d hike my leg around his waist again, perhaps lie me down on the stones, maybe using my gown as the only buffer between rock and flesh.

Instead, Erik spun me around, my cheek, my breasts, flattened against the rocks.

“Gods.” He dragged his mouth and nose down my spine, breathing me in. “Look at you. Hips back, love,” he crooned, guiding my lower half into the angle he wanted. “Keep your hands on the wall. Don’t move them, Songbird. Not once.”

All gods, his voice—rough as dry sand—heated my blood from crown to toe. A collision of cool from the rocky wall and warmth from the air, and my serpent’s body sent my head spinning, my toes curling.

With his knee, Erik spread my legs. I moaned when the tip of his length slid to my center. On first instinct, I wanted to bow back; I wanted to grapple for his waist or hold the back of his head. I closed my eyes and braced my palms against the wall as he’d demanded until the tips went white from the pressure.

Erik chuckled, dark honey from his throat, smooth and thick. “Good, Songbird. That’s it.”

One of his hands covered one of mine on the wall. He interlocked our fingers, while guiding my body to tilt and sit back against him. I gasped when it felt as though his length might bulge through the skin of my stomach he’d gone so deep.

For a torturous breath, Erik held us there, unmoving, locked as one. Then, he pulled his hips back until his cock nearly slid out and drove back inside. I dug my fingernails into the rock wall, sobbing at the shock of the invasion. The way he stretched me, whole and perfect, clawed through me like an insatiable desire.

Erik pounded into me again. He kissed the top of my spine. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. Not one piece of me wanted to, afraid it would shatter the delirium of my king’s body commanding me, claiming me, loving me with every rough thrust.

Erik’s hand abandoned my hip, sliding up my ribs, and curled around the underside of one breast. He tugged on my nipple in tandem with every thrust. I panted his name.

“Echoes . . . Songbird,” he gritted out. “I want . . . my name to fill . . . this damn . . . cavern.”

He pinched and rolled the peak between his thumb and finger. His hips slapped against mine. I widened my legs, wanting him deeper.

“Erik!” I cried his name, over and again. A prickle of pleasure tightened in my lower belly, dripping down to my core.

Erik’s thrusts grew more frantic. “Together. Come with me.”

As if his words unraveled a hidden part of me that could do nothing but comply, an overwhelming wave rolled from my belly to my head, and I shattered with his name echoing in tandem with mine from his mouth.

Erik fell over the ledge after me in a frenzy. He rolled his hips, grinding into my backside, drawing out our shared euphoria as his hot release spilled into me. I shuddered, grinning when the excess spilled down my thighs.

We remained there, Erik bent over me, my body boneless in his gentle embrace. He sprinkled kisses up the divots of my spine, my neck, then hugged my back to his chest as he softened and we broke apart.

Gently, Erik turned me around and held me close. I threaded my fingers through his hair, kissing his jaw, his lips.

“Do you think they’ve noticed our absence has gone on for some time?” More specifically, a Night Folk king. Gods, without fail I would lose myself in the Ever King and somehow pretend that my father would not notice certain things about his daughter and Erik Bloodsinger.

At the very least, Valen Ferus was a wise enough man to never mention them.

Even still, heat flooded my cheeks.

Erik kissed each side of my face. “I doubt anyone has noticed our absence at all. If anything, they’ll think we were tired and went to bed.”

“Oh, yes, I’m certain we have them all fooled.”

He kissed me sweetly. “Well, if you’d rather not return and face them, we could go to bed. In fact, I’m in favor of this new plan. I rescind the option to even return. To bed it is.”

I laughed and pinched his ribs, losing myself once again when Erik kissed me, soft and gentle, then with the passion and need I had only felt for this man.


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