The Promised Queen (Forgotten Empires #3)- Jeffe Kennedy Page 0,1

face. Blood ran from his lip—swelling rapidly—and smeared in his beard. Abruptly, astonishingly, he grinned at me. “They warned me you were a man-eater, but I never thought they meant it literally.”

“Bringing the dead back to life can be a tricky proposition,” Ambrose observed, leaning over Con’s broad shoulder to peer at me. The wizard’s sunny curls were plastered with rain around his face, making him look even younger than usual. That deceptive youth made for an odd contrast with his eyes, which held the wisdom—and sorrow—of centuries. The clinical interest in them reminded me of the four wizards who’d tortured me so cheerfully in their pursuit of knowledge, and a shudder of animal terror shook me. “I do hope that there won’t be a problem with—well, no sense worrying about it now.”

“Explain,” Con demanded.

Ambrose smiled wistfully. “We’ll see if such explanations become necessary—or useful. Suffice to say, Your Highness, that it will take time for Your spirit to recalibrate to being in flesh again.”

“Unfortunately, time is what we don’t have at the moment.” General Kara, dark and lean, stepped into my line of sight and bowed from the waist. “Your Highness, we need Your assistance.” He grimaced, looking away to something. “Rather urgently,” he added.

A startling lurch threw us to the side, another wave splattering us with chilly salt water, though Kara, a longtime sailor, absorbed the motion easily. That’s right: We were on a boat. The name came into my mind. The Last Resort. Percy’s yacht that they’d sailed to Yekpehr to rescue Sondra and me. Though I only recalled waking on a couch under this awning, to sunset skies and Calanthe’s flower-scented breezes.

Now waves tossed the ship about, a storm raging. I frowned in puzzlement. There shouldn’t be a storm this violent near Calanthe, should there? But we were near Calanthe’s shores; I knew that like I knew my hand moved at the end of my arm.

“We might be fucked.” Sondra strode into view, her smile nearly gleeful. “It’s total chaos out there. Your Highness—good to see You awake. And alive,” she added as an afterthought. Self-consciously, she ran a hand over her shorn head, the tufts of pale hair uneven, fine as puffs of cloud. I didn’t know how she’d come to lose her beautiful hair.

I couldn’t remember much at all, except the pain, and that dreadful, nauseating weakness as my blood and very life drained away. And dying. Remembering that nothingness, the sense of my self dissipating, had me spinning down and away, the clammy claws of death reaching for me …

“Stay with me, Lia.” Con’s hand still on my jaw, he turned my face toward his. “We need you to get us home.”

Home. To Calanthe. I should never have left.

“What’s going on?” I asked, my thoughts clearing as I levered myself up. I had a duty, a responsibility. There should not be a storm like this. Con helped steady and support me as I tried to see past the pitching deck that filled most of the scene, but couldn’t. “I need to stand.”

I pushed to my feet but my legs gave way like wilted flower stems, and I collapsed back against Con. How humiliating. I hated being weak in any way, and now I was nothing but that.

“Let me,” Con said, sweeping one arm under my knees and lifting me as if I weighed nothing. Probably I did, after all I’d been through. He tucked me against his chest—a comforting place to be—and braced against a pole that held up the awning sheltering us from the storm. I scanned the night-dark sea. Our torches made a pitifully small circle of flame in the swirl of wind, seawater, and sideways rain.

In the distance, Calanthe shone with drenched light, crowned by the glittering jewel of my palace high on the cliffs. The home I thought I’d never see again.

Lightning forked through the sky with an immediate crack! of pulse-jumping sound, illuminating everything in a harsh, ruthless glare, thunder rolling after as Calanthe groaned her pain and hunger. Not far away—entirely too close—sea spray fountained dramatically from the waves churned into fury by the massive coral reef that protected Calanthe.

“That is our problem,” Kara shouted over the wind, pointing, in case I’d failed to notice.

“Why are we so close?” I demanded. “Your boat will damage My coral reef.”

Con snorted out a sound suspiciously like a laugh. Kara looked pained but inclined his head. “My apologies, Your Highness, but it’s true. Unfortunately, we may not survive the encounter,