Chapter 36 – Negotiations – Cage's POV

FUCK!!! I wanted to roar.

I had just lost everything. I knew I couldn't live without her. And now I could never have her. But now wasn't the time for me to wallow in my anger and sorrow. Now I had to figure out a way just to keep her alive.

I implored Armand to listen to reason, "She is innocent! She has never done anything to betray you. Fuck she gave her life for mine! Is this how we repay her loyalty?!  Let her go back to her life, to New York. I guarantee she will never set foot in Romania again." Just saying those words felt like a knife in my chest, but it was all I had to bargain with.

Armand snarled, "And allowed the hunters to think I am weak?! No!! She will be made an example of. Any bastard child of hers will not go unpunished!"

I tried another tactic. "If you ever cared once for Brialle, don't do this!"

Armand slunk lower. I knew he was seconds away from attacking me. He vibrated in fury. "Her name is never to be mentioned in my presence again! Is that clearly understood?!"

From the corner of my eye, I saw Queen Ileana smile. If I hadn't been otherwise occupied in the moment, I think I would've killed her right then.

I had to keep trying to make him listen to reason. "The hunters tried to kill her. Why would they want her dead, if she were one of their own?!"

He smiled cruelly and swore, "Because they knew what you know. Our treaty is over. I will kill them all!"

Fuck! It was exactly the outcome I had told Raine would happen if Armand ever found out Brialle had an affair with a hunter. We would immediately be at war. I just had no idea at the time that I was speaking to the daughter created in that affair.

Armand continued, "They will all die...Starting with her."

Vlad interjected, "Let me have her."

"What the fuck?!" I hissed.

Armand insisted, "No, she dies!"

Vlad smiled cruelly and suggested, "Let me keep her as my pet. Do you not think it will make an even more impressive statement?"

I stared at him in shock.

Armand hesitated and then decreed, "You may have her as your pet for one year... And then she dies by my hand."

"NO!!!!" I roared. That was worse than death.

"Excellent!" Vlad purred. I could see him already planning what he wanted to do with her.

I looked at Armand and spat, "Is that the reward you are going to give to the man fucking your mate?!"

The council members gasped.

Queen Ileana began to cry.

Armand spun to face me. Before he could speak, Vlad demanded, "That is an absurd lie! What proof do you have?!"

"You know exactly the proof I have. She saw you!  And then you threatened her to keep her quiet!"

He narrowed his eyes and spoke contemptuously, "Hmmm... She is currently locked away. It would not surprise me if she tried to earn leverage with filthy lies. Armand would never be so fooled by such a ruse as that!"

I could tell from Armand's expression that he believed him. Fuck! I was out of options.

Armand spoke slowly as he warned me, "It shall be as I have spoken. If you deign to interfere with my decree, it will be the last thing you do! She will be brought before me and sentenced in the morning."

I spun on my heels and strode angrily out the door. He hadn't even begun to see me interfere, I thought fiercely.  Kieran and Talia were waiting for me as soon as I exited, both clearly knowing something was very wrong. They followed me silently back to my suite.

As soon as we arrived, I turned to face them and growled furiously, "Armand has decided to give Raine to Vladimir as his pet for one year! After that, he wants to kill her himself!"

Kieran's mouth hung open in shock. Talia sank down to the couch and cried, "He can't do that! She will never survive Vladimir!"

I flinched. She saw me react and rushed, "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to say that!"

"You spoke the truth," I ground out through my teeth.

"What are we going to do?" Kieran asked.

"Armand has threatened to kill me if I interfere."

He nodded and then repeated, "So, what are we going to do?"

I smiled. He knew me well. "I'm going to kill Vladimir."

"But the king. He does not make empty threats. Even if you succeed in killing Vladimir, he will execute you!" Talia stated in distress.

"So be it. I will not allow her to be harmed in such a way. None of this matters to me without her in it. She has already given her life for mine, more than once. I am absolutely willing to do the same."

Kieran murmured resolutely, "Let us hope we can find a way that does not end in all of our destruction."

I continued, "While I am busy with Vladimir, you must get her out. She has great wealth. As soon as she is free from here, she can disappear where Armand will never find her. The dungeon is impenetrable. We'll have to wait until after she is sentenced tomorrow, on the way back to his suite."

Kieran interjected, "The guards will be thick surrounding her. Vlad isn't stupid. He will plan on your attack."

I answered grimly, "I know, but for now it is the only plan I have. But promise me this; swear to me on your lives that if you cannot free her, you will kill her."

"No!" Talia whispered, a tear rolling down her cheek.

Anger flowed through me. I hissed, "She cannot afford your sentiment! You said it yourself; she would not survive him. You were right! And he will not waste one moment in taking from her everything he wants!"

I stopped, pain washing over me again. I shoved it out. She could not afford my sentiment either right now. I spoke softer to Talia, "It is the last thing I want, but it may very well be the last thing I can give her. I know her, and this would be her choice. She does not die easily. Snap her neck. It will be painless and should be efficient."

An even greater pain crushed me as I described how she would need to die. I hesitated, fighting back the tears. I couldn't remember the last time I had cried.

"I swear to you, I will do as you ask," she whispered without hesitation this time.

"As will I," Kieran added. "What did you mean when you said it was the only plan you had for now?"

"I'm going to have my contacts try to find Felaern. I have no idea if he would be willing to help, but he certainly seemed fond of her and now it is obvious why," I explained.

His unusual behavior toward her made much more sense now. Felaern held great affection for Brialle. I suspected that he knew her lineage all along. It surprised me that he endorsed our union with that knowledge, but maybe he felt our joining would have kept her alive, if Armand were to have found out at some point.

Kieran murmured, "Let us pray that Felaern agrees. We are going to need all of the help we can get."

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