Bite of Winter (Fae's Captive #3) - Lily Archer Page 0,1

the mountain, he’s promised crystal and coin. Enough for my people to survive, even thrive. No more going hungry, no more sending what little we have to that bitch on the throne. And all I need is you.”

“You go hungry?” Taylor’s voice softens.

“It’s a hard life out here.” Para lowers her weapon just a hair. “Harder when the fae at Byrn Varyndr demand what little we’re able to farm.” The bitterness in her voice could kill a woodland fairy. “We keep our warriors fed, but others …” She shakes herself and raises her blade. “I won’t watch another child go hungry when all I have to do is turn you over. I’m prepared to die for it.”

My cold seeps through the ground, snaking toward the warriors. She’s prepared to die. I will grant her a quick end.

Taylor pulls on my arm and leans forward, her gaze locked with Para’s. “Para, is it? I know what it’s like to be hungry. Not the sort where you’ve missed a meal or wake up too late for breakfast. I’m talking about the kind where it hurts. The kind that makes you wonder how long you can stand it. And the kind where, eventually, you don’t even feel it anymore. You’ve gone so long without that you can barely feel anything at all.”

Para blinks, then nods slowly. “Yes. That’s exactly what it is. Too many of my people suffer it, and you’re the way to change all that. I can’t let you leave.”

My ice grows, coating everything and cracking the red dirt beneath it. I should slay them all and leave nothing alive. And then I will comfort my mate, assure her that she will never go hungry again.

Taylor squeezes my arm and whispers, “Hang on. Give me a chance, please.”

I keep the magic at bay, the ice stopping like the edge of a frozen lake just in front of the Vundi.

Taylor raises her voice again and addresses Para. “I don’t know you, but I don’t want you to die. And maybe you haven’t noticed, but Leander is on the verge of freezing all of you to death. Can we all just pull back and talk about this? Everyone put their weapons down.”

Para finally breaks her eye contact with Taylor and looks up at me. Her brows furrow and she lets out a low sigh, as if she’s defeated, disgusted, or just tired. Based on the circles under her eyes and her gaunt cheeks, no longer hidden by the scarf, I would guess the latter. She seems to weigh Taylor’s words, then says, “Winter king, give me your word you will keep your magic in abeyance during our talks, and I will have my people stand down. But I make no promises, not to you or your changeling, about what happens after we meet with the council and the high priestess.”

“We can’t trust her,” I growl.

“Leander, please. Hasn’t there been enough death?” Taylor rests her forehead against my back, her warmth soothing the cold heart of winter inside me. “If there’s a chance we can talk our way out of this, we should at least try.”

I wrestle with my need to destroy them, to freeze their hearts until the threat is gone. But the non-feral part of me is yelling to stand down. With every day that passes, that voice gets quieter and quieter, the feral side of me growing louder.

“Leander.” She strokes her hand down my back. “Please, for me.”

“Anything for you.” Even the feral fae can agree to that, though it still sneaks in a whisper of “claim her, here on the ground in front of them all” before dissipating along with my ice. “Gareth.” I give him a nod.

“Weapons down, all of you.” He shrinks the ball of destruction between his palms until it disappears.

Para whistles high and sharp, and her warriors sheathe their blades and drop back, but not far.

“The storm is almost here.” The warrior who wields Taylor’s obsidian blade steps to Para’s side. Light brown scales fan out from beneath his crimson scarf, ending along the lower parts of his cheeks.

“We’ve called destruction to us with the scent of blood.” He surveys the dead along the ground.

Para spares a glance over her shoulder. “The Ancestors are punishing me.”

“Dust storm.” Gareth whistles, and Sabre hurries to him. “We need to make camp before it hits.”

Kyrin walks over and nuzzles Taylor. She rubs his muzzle like an old friend.

“So we’re running from the storm, yeah? Because it doesn’t look like