The Bound (Ascension #2)

The Bound (Ascension #2)

K.A. Linde

Jardana’s body hummed with victory.

Ever since she had returned to her rooms to find a note addressed to her from Prince Kael in their secret code, she had known that tonight was the night. Everything would change between them. Their little dalliance behind the scenes had gone on long enough. It was time to make this official.

She was a Byern Affiliate, raised to be one of the most respected women in the entire country. And not just that, she was in a position to rule. Already, she was Assistant Director of Internal Affairs for Her Majesty, Queen Kaliana. Soon, she would rise from Assistant to the actual DIA for the Queen herself. The Queen’s right-hand woman. Her most trusted Affiliate.

And, if things worked out as she suspected they would tonight, she would even surpass that and become a Duchess, ruling over all of Albion, her husband second in line for the throne. A woman could get used to that.

She tugged the black cloak low over her brow. The note had been clear that she was not to be seen when she left. Long ago, she had figured out more than one passage in and out of the castle grounds where no one would stop her from leaving, even in dire times, such as now with Affiliate and High Order murders and that annoying Cyrene’s disappearance.

Truly, Jardana believed Cyrene was just trying to get more attention, as if the King’s pretend interest wasn’t enough. She turned her nose up at the thought. No, King Edric cared nothing for that girl. That was why Cyrene had vanished in the first place.

Jardana rolled her eyes. Cyrene made her blood boil. At least Jardana wouldn’t have to deal with Cyrene again after tonight.

The trek to her rendezvous point wasn’t that far, but she held to the shadows and avoided people. If Kael wanted a private proposal, then she would be happy to oblige him.

She passed a woman in a dirty frock, who jumped backward at the sight of Jardana.

“Get out of the way,” Jardana snapped irritably.

The woman dropped into a hasty, clumsy curtsy. “My apologies, miss.”

“Don’t you know your betters? I’m an Affiliate, not some lowly commoner.”

Her eyes rounded. “Forgive me. I meant no offense, Affiliate.”

Jardana glared at the woman. “Her Majesty will be hearing about this.”

And then she strode away, listening to the woman’s pleas, with dark laughter buried within herself.

She reached the secluded building that Kael had mentioned in his letter. She had memorized it before leaving and promptly burned it in the fireplace. No one was to know what was happening.

Approaching the door, she tapped out the code—three taps, pause, one tap, pause, one tap, wait.

The door creaked open, and Jardana hurried into the house, locking the door behind her. She tipped back the hood on her cloak and surveyed the room. It was completely empty, not a single piece of artwork on the walls, not a single chair in the room, not even a scrap of rug to break up the stone floor. It was dismal.

Why would he propose here?

“Jardana, is that you?” Kael called.

She turned toward a narrow corridor and followed his voice. “Yes, it’s me.”

“Good. You came.”

“Of course.”

She walked down the corridor, into the open room, and stopped in her tracks. Candlelight flooded the bare room. A wooden table was in the center, and on top of it was a small book. When Kael turned to stare down at the pages, the air in the room seemed to shift with him. She had an eerie feeling that she couldn’t exactly place.

“You wanted to see me?” she said, losing some of her bravado.

“Yes. Shut the door behind you.”

Jardana swallowed but closed the door and strode to his side. “What are you reading?”

“A book my father left me.”

“I didn’t know King Maltrier had bequeathed you anything,” Jardana said. “What does it contain?”

“A great deal of things that are very important to the country.”

“Has King Edric seen it?”

It was the wrong thing to ask. Kael’s head snapped up to meet her, and his eyes were storm clouds. His pupils dilated, and he looked furious. She should have known better. She knew how much Kael despised his brother. He was the chosen one, born for greatness, given everything on a silver platter while Kael had to wait in the background, was looked down upon by his peers, and struggled to attain such greatness as his brother had already achieved.

“Edric was not always the golden son,” Kael growled. “Once, my father chose me above everyone…above Edric. He left me the most precious thing in his possession, and today, we will see his plans begin to come to fruition.”

Jardana smiled cruelly. She loved when he spoke like this. “Yes,” she told him, “together, we will take over the world.”

“We most certainly will,” he said with that charming smile she knew all too well.

He reached out and dragged her flush against him. “You trust me?”

“Implicitly,” she told him.

They were going to rule the world together. She would be his queen, seated at his side, second only to the Queen. Her ambition had never been higher than at that moment. She could practically taste it. She would sit atop the golden throne, looking down upon all the worthless citizens. She would have full command of the Affiliates, and they would do her bidding and her bidding alone. It was what she had been born for. Her mother had always said that she would be supreme.

K.A. Linde's Books