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Chapter 88 –I Who Have Everything– Raine's POV

Felaern's angry growl and Brialle's startled gasp caused me to jump. I trembled when I felt his fingertips touch my back. He traced one of my scars, impossibly gently, as an almost sustained rumble reverberated from his chest.

And then his strong hands gripped my shoulders. He turned me to face him, and lifted my chin, forcing me to look at him. His features were severe, like that of an oncoming storm, and his normally azure blue eyes had turned silver, almost white. I inhaled sharply at his murderous expression. He was truly frightening. He demanded furiously, "Who has touched you?!"

I shook, unable to respond.

Brialle interrupted, placing a hand on his chest. She spoke soothingly, "Felaern, you are scaring the child. Give her just a moment and I'm sure she will tell us what happened."

He released me and stepped back, but his angry expression did not diminish even a little. Brialle moved to help me back into my shirt and then pulled me down so that we were sitting together on the edge of the bed again. She murmured, "Go ahead."

I wasn't sure exactly where to begin, so just blurted out, "I ran away."

"And why did you run?" She encouraged me to continue.

I bit my lip and said, "Because Marku told me that Armand had given me to him."

Brialle gasped and Felaern hissed, "What the fuck?!"

I hurried to clarify, "Armand hadn't given me away! Marku lied. But I didn't know that, so I ran. Alaric found me and brought me back. But as punishment for running, Quinn sentenced me to ten lashes. Alaric fought with his father, and when it was clear Quinn would not relent, Alaric insisted the punishment be given to him instead of me."

I stopped. The pain of that day was still brutally fresh in my mind. Brialle lightly rubbed my arm as I struggled to get my breathing under control. Finally I started again, "Quinn was angry that Alaric had suggested it. He said that in order to teach him how to be a King, he would need to learn a lesson."

Brialle sucked in a deep breath, already suspecting where the conversation was going. I whispered brokenly, "So instead, he changed my sentenced to twenty  lashes by one of his guards..."

Felaern hissed angrily and clenched his fists.

"... Or I could have the original ten, provided Alaric  gave them to me." I explained, and wiped tears from my eyes with trembling fingers.

Brialle gasped, "What?!"

My voice hitched, "Alaric refused...At first. I saw it in his eyes. He was going to fight to get me out...But there were too many...For him to be successful. And I knew Quinn would have executed him for such treasonous defiance."

A sob broke from my throat. "I couldn't let him die for me...So I begged him to do it. He finally gave in because Quinn told him that he could heal me afterward...He didn't know that only Armand's blood can heal me. When it was over, he brought me to Armand, but..."

"... But Armand's blood was not sufficient to compensate for Alaric's heavy hand," Felaern snarled. It was clear Felaern was furious with both Quinn's decision and Alaric's severity.

I rushed to defend Alaric, "Quinn threatened ten more lashes if Alaric went easy on me! He had no choice! Alaric was ready to die to get me out, and the guilt consumes him. It was my decision!"

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