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Chapter 160—The Right Time

Raine

Cage trailed his fingers down my arm, grumbling, "I don't want to get up."

"Me too," I agreed with him. I had no desire to move from my position tucked against his side, but we still needed to meet with Armand. It was hard to believe we'd only just returned the night before. After everything that happened with Marku, it felt like days had gone by.

He sighed heavily and then pulled himself from the bed. I stood reluctantly to join him. Cage contacted Armand to let him know we would be there shortly. Once we made ourselves presentable again, we headed back to the Council Room. When we arrived, Armand and Brialle were already seated on one of the couches. Cage and I settled on the couch across from them. Gen. Raed and the other Council members were also in attendance.

We spent a long time explaining the events that had transpired and answering multiple questions, before Armand asked the question I had been dreading. "And what of Queen Ileana? Brialle said you broke our bond."

Anxiety tightened in my belly, but I held my ground and simply replied, "I did."

His eyes narrowed at my lack of explanation. His tone turned accusing, "You let her get away."

I worked to contain my anger. His animosity was palpable and his hypocrisy left a bitter distaste in my mouth. If Ileana were here, he would absolutely torture her, even while warming Brialle's bed, the very reason she had run from him in the first place. A muscle in my jaw ticked.

"She tried to kill me," he scowled. "Punishment should be swift for her crime."

"No, Vladimir tried to kill you," I replied, my voice hard. "She just didn't try to stop him." Armand was not innocent in this matter. What she had done was wrong, but he was also guilty. "You know you gave her enough reasons to run from you."

A low growl came from Armand's chest. His hands clenched into fists. Cage released my leg and leaned his upper body forward, posturing a warning to Armand. Armand glanced at him for a moment, assessing the threat, and then refocused on me.

Cage didn't speak, but I felt the power thrumming through his body and wondered if Armand could sense the change in him as well. I suspected that Armand didn't realize how significantly Cage's abilities had been enhanced, courtesy of Felaern and my Royal Mark on his back.

Tension crackled in the air.

Brialle placed her hand on Armand bicep in an effort to calm him and spoke softly, "She speaks the truth." Armand refused to look at her, still holding his glare on me.

I'd had enough and snapped, "She earned her freedom. She sacrificed herself for me...your daughter. She paid the price necessary to get Cage back."

His eyes narrowed, his voice clipped. "The dragons..."

"Yes, they wanted her in exchange for access to the Pools of Morenth where Cage was submerged and held in suspended animation after he was attacked by Felaern's mate, Sofielle. I refused, but she begged me to let her do this for me. She willingly gave up her freedom so that I could get Cage back."

Armand studied me carefully, taking in my words. He seemed to relax a little.

Maybe I just didn't know when to quit, but I wanted him to fully understand where I stood on the matter, and continued coolly, "But even if she hadn't bartered her life for Cage's, I still wouldn't have returned her to you."

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