The palace was quiet—quieter than she’d ever remembered it being.
That didn’t stop Rowen from hunting the wizard who nearly destroyed her world down.
She stalked the halls, limping from the tingling of her legs, and dizzy from lack of nourishment. She was certain that if she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she wouldn’t recognize herself. A few days longer and she would have withered away from starvation.
Despite the aching in her gut, she pressed on, eyes sharp and ears desperate for any tiny sound. The soft rug beneath her feet keep her from the creaking of the wood underneath, and she stuck to taking the carpeted corridors as she continued her search.
Fear no longer ruled her world, and all she wanted was for this nightmare to truly end.
“What have you done?”
Rowen tensed. The deep, male voice came from behind her.
She closed her eyes, and her shoulders slumped as she tilted her chin upward.
“I killed her,” she said, quietly.
She could feel his rage pulsating through the air between them. She could also smell the heavy heat of magic, and slowly turned to get a good look at the man who started this whole mess.
He was fairly good-looking, tall, with a decent build and attractive face. None of that mattered. All she saw was the darkness of his eyes that was hidden behind the azure that glared at her.
“Sent a bolt of light right through her face,” she said, taking a step toward him. “And, watched her fall. It was beautiful. I’d pay to watch it all happen again.”
His jaw clenched, as did her fists.
“How shall I end your life, Sir Warwick Ludlow?” Rowen asked, standing a foot before him.
He was much taller, so she had to look upward, but the authority was all hers in that moment. Even as he raised his wizard’s staff, she could see it in his eyes.
He was afraid of her.
They stared into each others eyes for a long moment, before he made a move.
He reached for her throat, but Rowen anticipated it. Why was it that men always went for the throat first?
Her stepfather had shown her many things, and for once, she was grateful for this lesson.
Rowen sidestepped him, and used the light from the torches to build a divine, red ball of power. She hovered before him, collecting more fire from each torch that lined the palace walls, until they were in darkness that was only lit by her flames.
Warwick stared at her in disbelief.
“Remarkable,” he said, lowering his staff. “Such raw, untamed magic. I could show you so many things.”
Her brows furrowed. “I’m afraid I’m not interested,” she said, and threw the ball of fire at him.
It shot across the hallway, speeding with purpose.
He was quick, and cast an air shield in between them that nearly extinguished her flames. The sound of the fire meeting solid air was staggeringly loud, but Rowen wasn’t ready to let go.
She would not lose.
She held tightly to the energy she’d collected, and fed more to the magic ball of fire before her. Even as she did so, her inner strength threatened to give out.
While Warwick’s air shield wavered, and began to melt away, she urged the ball closer to him. Sweat poured from his face, forcing him to his knees. Teeth clenched, he held his staff outward, and the ball at the end crackled and sparked.
For a moment, Rowen went dizzy, and saw black before her eyes.
No. Not now.
The child needed her to fight—to be strong—stronger than the wizard at her feet.
It was too late. He sensed her weakness and took it as a chance to gain an edge on her.
“Tired, are we?” Warwick asked. “I thought we were just getting started.”
That comment gave her renewed energy, and she rose higher in the air, until she nearly touched the vaulted ceiling.
Perhaps she should run. To fly out of the palace would be an escape, but she’d leave Withrae at Warwick’s mercy.
“Do you know she was all I had left?”
Rowen pursed her lips, but the cracking of his voice gave her pause.
Why should she care? The woman had tormented her for so long she wasn’t sure exactly how much time had transpired.
“It won’t matter once I’m done with you,” she said, and he grinned at her.
“You know, Gavin was right about you,” he said, and her brows rose. “You are a strong one.”
What did Gavin have to do with any of this?
Her question went unanswered as a sharp pain filled her throat, and sent blood gushing from her lips. The pain blinded her, and sent her cascading downward to the ground.
Right into enemy hands.