Home > Dark Harmony (The Bargainer #3)(13)

Dark Harmony (The Bargainer #3)(13)
Author: Laura Thalassa

“How long do you think your father’s body has been missing?” I ask.

Des shakes his head. “No more than a decade or so.”

I raise my eyebrows.

“I’ve checked many times over the two centuries since his death,” he explains. “I’ve been perversely curious whether the earth would one day accept him. I should’ve known some other sort of fuckery was afoot.”

Resurrected kings, possessed soldiers, and a body-snatching Thief. It sounds nonsensical.

Perhaps if I wrote it out I would understand it all better.

“Do you have a notebook and a pen?” I ask the Bargainer.

In response, he snaps his fingers, and from the ether he produces a pen and a pad of paper.

I take both from him, and smooth the paper on the ground. Uncapping the pen, I begin to write.

Des peers over at what I’m scrawling down.

When I don’t say anything, he asks, “What are you writing?”

I pause, my eyes moving to his.

“A timeline.”

“Here is what we know: your father and the Thief are somehow connected,” I say. “If we start from the beginning, your father was once simply a king with a lot of consorts and kids; he probably wasn’t the best dude out there, but he wasn’t always murdering his young.”

I pause, just to make sure I have the story straight so far.

Des gives me a nod, looking vaguely entertained.

“Then at some point,” I say, moving my pen down my timeline, “he heard a prophecy about losing his throne, and he murdered his children as a result.” I scribble the note in.

“You, his one remaining son, then overthrew him,” I pause to write in the facts, “and shortly thereafter you discovered his body wouldn’t decay, so you put him in a tomb.” I draw a long line to show the time elapsed. “Over a decade ago, his body was still entombed.” I fill that out on my sheet. “Now his body is gone, and he is very much alive.”

Once I’ve written it all out, I stare at the sheet.

And … I’m not sure this exercise produced a single answer. Except that—

The Thief of Souls began kidnapping soldiers roughly a decade ago, essentially during that shadowy period of time where Galleghar Nyx might or might not have been entombed.

There could be something to that.

My gaze moves back to the beginning of the timeline, around when Galleghar Nyx heard a prophecy and began killing his kids. That was the first domino flicked, the one that set in motion everything that led to us sitting here in the Banished Lands, an empty tomb only a stone’s throw away.

“Have you heard the prophecy yourself?” I ask.

The corners of Des’s lips pull down. “It’s been … lost to time.”

Well, there goes that potential lead.

A flask materializes in the Bargainer’s hand. He takes a deep swig of it, then wordlessly passes it to me.

Des is not usually this open to sharing alcohol with me. Before he can reconsider the offer, I take the flask from him and bring it to my mouth. I wince as soon as the spicy spirits hit my tongue. There’s magic in the drink, magic that strokes my throat and tickles my stomach.

I pass the flask back.

“It’s too quiet here,” he admits, his gaze skimming our surroundings. “Something is amiss.”

Something is more than a little amiss. A man came back from the dead.

“Des, why are we still here?” I ask softly. I haven’t pressed the issue up until now because I wanted to give my mate time to work through whatever emotional turmoil is running through his head.

And yeah, I get that an empty tomb is not a huge surprise, given that Des fought his dad back in Flora’s forest, but between keeping me alive and then defending his kingdom from an army of possessed soldiers, the King of Night has probably been a little too preoccupied to actually process that fact.

That being said, this was supposed to be a quick adventure—see Galleghar Nyx’s resting place, then go. But now we’re lingering, and maybe that wouldn’t be a problem except that, despite the drink, I can feel this place sapping away my strength bit by bit. And Des has a distant, troubled look on his face like each second he’s moving farther out of my reach.

He takes another swig from his flask, passing it back to me. “Someone here must’ve seen what happened to the body,” he replies. “I’m going to have a little chat with them.”

A little chat. Right. That’s a Bargainer euphemism if I’ve ever heard one.

I swallow a shot’s worth of Otherworld spirits—oh, that sits well in the stomach—before handing the flask to Des and glancing around us.

There’s not a single spark of life anywhere within eyesight. Not an animal, not a plant, and certainly not a fairy. Besides us, there’s no one here right now, just as there likely was no one here the day Galleghar’s body disappeared from its tomb.

But even if there was …

“Shouldn’t we then be looking for them?”

“They will come to us.”

I’m seriously not following.

Des, smirks at me, no longer looking so distant. “Have you been feeling a little parched?”

“Yes …” I say slowly. What does that have to do with anything?

“There’s a reason we banish fae here. This place is devoid of magic. A long ago battle reaped every last drop from the land. And magic, cherub, is a fairy’s lifeblood.”

With his flask, the Bargainer points to the bonfire, which is doing such an excellent job of shoving off the cold that I have to scoot away from it. “That right there is putting out magic in spades—magic that fae will be drawn to.”

The smoke gives off a perfumed scent—like burning rose petals—and I suddenly get it. The fire was literally sending out a smoke signal, carrying magic off along the wind, coaxing magic-starved fae towards us.

“So we’re bait,” I say. “You decided to make us bait.”

The Bargainer’s gaze sharpens on me, his pale eyes changing color as the flames dance in them. “You’re not bait, love. The fire is the bait. You’re an iron-manacled trap set to crush willful fairies.”

Yessss, my siren says. He understands.

Des’s eyes move to the fire and his gaze unfocuses. I think that maybe he’s going to add something else, but the seconds tick by, and soon it becomes obvious that his thoughts have returned inwards.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the big bad Bargainer fall into himself. In my mind he’s the deal-making, door-busting, tatted thug I met eight years ago.

Not this.

“Des.”

We all have roles we play. I’m used to being the vulnerable one, the lonely one, and the Bargainer is used to being the tough, secretive one. The problem is, we aren’t actors and this isn’t a play. We’re flesh and blood and even a fairy as strong and capable and old (and I mean old) as Des sometimes needs to be weak.

And it’s okay to be weak and upset. I’ve stared down those emotions at the bottom of many a-bottle.

I think that’s where the Bargainer is, even though his stoic expression gives away nothing. His kingdom is compromised and his father is alive and maybe all sorts of old emotions he thought he buried are now resurfacing. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but in case I’m not—

I get up and close what little distance there is between me and Des. I sink down on his lap, my thighs on either side of his hips. His gaze sharpens, and he stares at me with those intense, pale eyes of his. He’s hard to look at because even after all this time he’s still so ridiculously pretty.

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