Melia was greedy.
Fen stood in the middle of the clearing. The soldiers of La Riiz – specifically, of the Cult – kept a careful watch of the man as he took in his surroundings. Trapped, with no way out. All had gone according to her plan.
“So it comes to this.”
She felt Fen’s gaze before she saw it. He always found her. She would run, she would hide, she would lose herself in the past. But he called for her, he reached out for her, and he always, always found her. Even now, it was no different.
However she felt about that didn’t matter now. She had prepared for this. She wanted this.
So she stepped out, and braced herself.
“I thought they would send someone else for this part of the plan. La Riiz must be really struggling to keep their elites.”
Her lover’s voice was light and even. Melia knew him well enough to know that it meant nothing.
“I see that.”
Melia got one glimpse of his smile, and her will almost crumbled.
“You won’t come quietly.”
Melia never expected him to. She knew him too well. He had too much to live for, too much to protect. The Cult went against everything Fen stood for, everything she wanted to stand for. He would have never submitted to the will of the Cult.
That’s where the Cult put her into the equation.
“Oh, is a live catch preferable? But of course, you’ve had plenty of chances to kill. I do have to wonder, for what great plans of La Riiz must I be captured alive?”
He took a step forward. She wanted to run.
“How many nights have we had now? I’m impressed with your patience. Being with your enemy, having to pretend for so long. Forcing yourself to smile, to laugh, to cry. Such effort.”
She should have never fallen in love. She should have never let anyone know. She should have never expected happiness for herself.
“Help me understand, Melia. Was it for La Riiz at all?”
The Cult held Ashe in one hand, and Fen in the other. The Cult told her to choose, lest they make the choice for her. The blood of the bond, the passion of the heart. You can’t have it all, they said.
And Melia was so desperately greedy.
“Each time you chose not to draw your weapon, each time you chose not to dispose of La Riiz’s enemy… was that really part of your orders? To let me live and do about as I pleased?”
He will live. Melia had seen to that. It was the most ambitious proposal Melia had made to the Cult, and they accepted it. Melia suppressed a bitter laughter. Fen wasn’t wrong – La Riiz was struggling to keep their elites. And it worked to her advantage.
She offered to return one of their more valuable assets to their ranks once more. All she asked in return was to make a permanent captive out of Gramenian king’s right hand.
A life for a life.
“I’d like to know, Melia.”
Fen, now inches away from her, had all the pain in the world in his eyes. Melia didn’t have the privilege to apologize anymore.
“What will you do now, love?”
He stroked her cheek tenderly.
His fingers withdrew dry.
It was the least she could do.