Stelian swigged from his flask. “What is taking the red-eyed bastard so long?”

Though Mirceo wanted to murder Lothaire for sending Mina out, he berated himself just as much for not being here for her. He’d planned to talked to the king about keeping Mina close, but Mirceo had gotten so caught up in his own life that he’d let her down.

He’d lost the only things in his life that mattered, and in both instances, he’d deserved to.

Trehan checked his watch. “I’m due in Abaddon to meet Bettina. I must leave anon.” He frowned at Mirceo’s mottled face. “None of this need ever have happened.”

Mirceo had been forced to come clean about the priceless crystal’s end, and since he’d been viciously beaten, brain-bruised, and unable to lie, he’d unintentionally implicated Caspion.

“I could kill that demon for destroying the crystal,” Trehan said, his piercing green eyes flickering black. “If not for him, Mina would be safe at home right now.”

Mirceo didn’t hate Caspion over the crystal, because he blamed himself for that as well. He’d pursued his mate so aggressively that the demon had snapped.

And for what?

Mirceo wished he could tell Caspion that his morning-after panic had had nothing to do with their relationship and everything to do with Mina. He was convinced his arm pained him because she had been likewise injured.

When he’d explained his confounding reaction to his uncles, Trehan had said, “The night my Bride was attacked by Vrekeners, I woke from a dead sleep, feeling as if I’d left something undone.” Mirceo had felt like a secret danced just out of reach. “That sense was maddening, because I’d always done what was expected of me. Always. Soon it grew into abject dread. I later realized that we Dacians have vaster abilities than even we know. . . .”

Damn it, how much longer would Lothaire be?

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Reaching into his pocket, Mirceo ran his fingertips over Mina’s last letter to him, one that’d gone unnoticed on his desk until after he’d discovered her missing.

He’d long since memorized the words, the parchment stained from his blood tears:

My dear Mirceo,

I have such exciting news! I’m being sent out into the world, as an official observer for King Lothaire. I know you expressed concerns, but I dare not disobey an order from our regent!

I am beside myself with anticipation, and can’t wait to behold the otherlanders’ world—the splendor of its natural beauty and the nobility of its peoples.

Brother, my heart soars.

Please don’t worry about me as I set off on my mission. Such a request should prove next to impossible for my protective big brother, but try.

Your little sister is actually quite capable.

I have you to thank for that, for everything. Whatever would I do without my Mirceo?

I love you more than diamond-filtered sun,

Mina D

Her words had rained down more blows onto Mirceo’s already battered conscience. He should have taken time out of his busy schedule—being a fucking degenerate princeling—to escort her out into the world and teach her about it.

The degree of her innocence would likely get her killed. If other immortals or the plague didn’t annihilate her, then the mortals would.

This letter might be the last communication he ever had from her. She could already be . . . dead—

Lothaire and Elizabeth finally arrived, teleporting into their thrones.

Moments later, two burly guards appeared with a shackled and gagged Kristoff. Blood and bruises covered the Forbearer king’s face and bared chest. The guards had to hold him upright.

He looks even worse than I do.

“This one hasn’t surrendered to torture,” Lothaire told the court. “Understandable, since he shares my blood.”

Kristoff’s clear eyes flooded black with rage, promising revenge.

Lothaire turned to Mirceo. “You will drink my brother and harvest his memories to discover where they are hiding Kosmina.”

“Drink him?” The thought of piercing that male’s flesh made Mirceo nauseated again.

Whenever he’d passed out for a few moments, he’d continued to experience Caspion’s memories of hunts and adventures. With each one, Mirceo had fallen more and more in love with the bold, stalwart demon.

How could he pollute those memories with this strange male’s?

Plus Mirceo had given his word to Caspion that he’d keep his dick in his pants and his fangs in his mouth. Biting Kristoff meant putting Caspion out of reach forever.

But to save Mina . . . Tormented, Mirceo traced beside the prisoner, all but pleading to Kristoff, “If I drink you, I will harvest all of your memories—so just tell me what we want to know and save us the trouble.”

The gagged Forbearer king thrashed against the guards, a killing look in his eyes. He’d never cooperate.

Mirceo steeled himself. For Mina. Fangs bared, he leaned in. . . .

THIRTY-FOUR

Cas traced to Bettina’s chambers, finding her biting her nails and staring off into space.

Her eyes went wide at his appearance. “Cas! What happened between you and Mirceo?”

“It’s difficult to explain. Where is Trehan? I need to speak with him immediately.”

“I expect him any moment. But I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be here when he shows.”

Cas held up the poster. “Kosmina’s truly missing?”

Bettina nodded. “Lothaire sent her from the kingdom—without Mirceo knowing.”