The Warrior King (Inferno Rising #3) - Abigail Owen Page 0,1

“I can take my throne by force, but I would rather save my people from the bloodshed. Swear allegiance to me now and you’ll live.”

The previous king’s viceroys paled with each word Brand uttered. Two of the men sitting before Brand covered the marks that could be seen on the fleshy part between their thumbs and forefingers. The king’s marks. Magical marks that showed a dragon shifter’s loyalty to the king of their clan—now Brand’s family insignia, though some of the gold dragons still bore the now-dead king’s mark.

Finished with his claim, Brand lifted his head. He listened for answers from the people who’d heard his telepathic message, and the room sat in silence for a long time, tension piling on tension until it reached screaming pitch. Until one corner of Brand’s mouth lifted in a smile that would make the most hardened warrior wary.

“My people have spoken,” Brand murmured. “Bow to your king.”

One by one, each of the men stood and knelt. All except the oldest. Brand gave a single nod to one of the men on his left, who took that man into custody and led him out of the room quietly. Not for execution, but imprisonment.

A damn miracle that this had happened without a single death.

A movement in the back corner of the room caught Samael’s attention, and everything inside him stilled, readying for a fight. He didn’t move yet, waiting to confirm the threat.

Except nothing stood in the room over there. Another check showed an ornate mirror hanging several feet above the floor. He must’ve seen the movement of someone in the room, and no one here was a threat. Not anymore.

Not that he relaxed.

“Brock will not sit by for this without a fight,” another of the viceroys warned.

Truth. The son of the previous ruler should be defending his father’s throne. All reports showed he’d gone into hiding, leaving his people unguarded. Coward.

Samael did another sweep, using all his senses, not really listening as Brand addressed the comment and then had the Curia Regis ushered out of the room. Taking a throne shouldn’t be this easy. Holding it would no doubt be more difficult. They couldn’t let down their guard. Not yet.

As soon as the door closed behind the departing viceroys, Kasia threw her arms around Brand’s neck. “You did it,” she whispered.

Brand scowled, as if he didn’t like that. “It’s not over yet,” he murmured before claiming her lips in a kiss so reverent, Samael glanced away, feeling the need to give them privacy.

The way the new dragon king watched his mate, with possession and something more in his golden gaze—adoration, love, desire, protectiveness… Phoenix or not, their mating was real. Fated. Samael couldn’t deny that, not after being around this couple for five minutes.

A movement over by the mirror snagged his attention again. He looked harder, and another flash drew his gaze…inside the mirror.

What in the seven hells?

The reflection was moving, glowing almost, with…flames? Except the brightness didn’t flicker through the throne room.

Slowly, Samael slunk nearer for a better angle. The second he got a full look, his body went quiet. Then his dragon rumbled in his head, a long purr of a sound. The reflection in the mirror was that of a woman, tall and willowy with strawberry-blond curls wild around her face lifted by the flames that danced over her body. Only a very few fire creatures had that kind of power. Was she a dragon shifter? Her manner of dress, though—almost medieval in appearance—brought him to ghost. But ghosts didn’t light on fire.

Whoever—or whatever—she was, she seemed to be watching the proceedings with interest.

Samael turned his head, searching for where she would have to be standing in the room for that mirror to pick her up, except no one was there. He whipped his head back—she hadn’t moved. She was definitely there.

Am I seeing ghosts now?

Brand and Kasia parted. “I need to talk to Ladon,” Brand said. “Now.”

Together, they led the remaining men in the room away, but Samael lingered, moving toward the mirrored image. She’d smiled watching Brand and Kasia together.

Why did she care? What was going on here?

With a final step, Samael moved directly in front of the mirror, directly into her line of sight, staring her down.

The woman froze. Except she thawed as quickly as she’d turned to ice, her glacial eyes turning darker blue as her gaze skated over him. The way she took him in, with an almost childlike innocence—it was as though she didn’t know