Home > Ignite (Defy #2)

Ignite (Defy #2)
Sara B. Larson

THE HEAT IN the hallway was stifling, even though it was well past midnight. Thick humidity lingered from a storm that had passed earlier in the evening, coating my skin with moisture. I couldn’t smell the wet leaves and mud of the jungle here, outside King Damian’s room, but I knew the rich scent well enough to conjure it on my own. I was only halfway through my night shift, and I was already drooping. Willing myself to stay alert, I began to pace.

There hadn’t been a single threat since Damian’s coronation almost a month earlier, but Deron, the captain of the king’s guard, wasn’t about to take chances with Damian’s life, and I couldn’t agree more. Especially after how hard we had all fought — and how much we’d lost — to stop Damian’s father, King Hector, and put Damian on the throne. My brother, Rylan’s brother, almost half the guard, and countless others had died in the fight to free Antion from the evil vise in which Hector and his black sorcerer, Iker, had held the kingdom for almost my entire lifetime.

As I marched up and down the hallway, forcing the blood to move in my tired limbs, the side of my face and neck began to throb. The pain from my scars had eased over the last month, but it was still there. A constant reminder of the battle I’d fought against Iker.

Damian, too, had fought and lost so very much. He and I were alike in more ways than one — we’d both had to play parts to protect ourselves, and we’d both seen our families wiped out. I’d watched my parents and brother die at the hands of our enemies, but Damian … He had been forced to kill his own father in order to protect his people. Those scars were the type that no one could see, but would never truly heal.

The lit torch propped in the bracket across from Damian’s door flickered suddenly, as if a gust of wind had blown past it, although I felt nothing. My hand dropped to the hilt of my sword. As I peered into the darkness to my right, there was nothing to see except a long stretch of empty hallway.

I crossed in front of Damian’s door again, my thoughts turning to my king, as they often did. Though I’d made my choice, and convinced Damian that I didn’t have any feelings for him, it was yet one more buried wound that I carried with me. I could never let him uncover the truth — that not only did I have feelings for him, but I was still in love with him. I would do whatever it took to keep our new king safe and to help him rebuild his kingdom and be the best ruler he could be, even if it meant causing him pain now. It was the right thing to do.

That dedication to his safety and well-being was why I never complained about taking the night shifts like some of the other guards did — usually the new ones. I was still unaccustomed to their faces and voices, rather than those of my old friends: Jude. Kai. Antonio. So many others.

“Alexa.” A familiar voice called out my name — my real name — making me jump. I turned around to see Deron striding toward me from the other direction. Maybe someday I would get used to the captain of the guard calling me Alexa, rather than Alex, as he had for years when he thought I was a boy.

“Deron, what is it?” I asked as he closed the gap between us, his own lit torch chasing more of the shadows away.

“There’s a man at the gate who’s demanding entrance to the palace. He claims to be from Dansii, acting as a runner to warn us that a delegation has been deployed by King Armando and will be arriving within a day or two.”

“A delegation?” I repeated in disbelief. “Has Dansii ever sent a delegation before?”

“No. Not so much as a political emissary, as far as I know.”

A cold chill skittered down my spine. “Why send one now?”

“He claims they have come to celebrate the coronation of the new king.” When his eyes met mine, I could see my own nervousness reflected in their dark depths. A number of different scenarios ran through my mind in quick succession — reasons why the king of Dansii, Hector’s brother, would send a delegation now. Each was worse than the last.

“We should increase the watches and guards in the palace while they’re here,” I said. “No matter what, we can’t trust Dansii. And we need to alert the king.”

“That’s why I came up here.”

“Alert me to what?”

I spun around to see Damian pulling open his door, wearing nothing more than a pair of pants, his hair mussed by sleep, his jaw shadowed with stubble. My heart jumped into my throat, and my fingers tightened around the hilt of my sword. But he wasn’t looking at me; instead, he gave the captain of his guard a questioning look.

“We didn’t mean to wake you, my liege.” Deron inclined his head.

“You didn’t. I couldn’t sleep.” Damian’s voice was clipped. He still wouldn’t look at me. “Now tell me what’s happening.”

“Your uncle, King Armando, has apparently sent a delegation that will be arriving at the palace shortly. A runner has preceded them to warn us of their coming.” Deron kept his voice level, indicating no response to this news.

Damian lifted one eyebrow, his gaze finally flickering to mine, then quickly away. It lasted less than a second, and yet the brief connection sent a wave of awareness through me. I’d been guarding him, standing next to him all day long, but for some reason — possibly because he was half naked — standing only a few feet away from him now, in the middle of the night, felt too intimate. In the low light, his shockingly blue eyes were shadowed. I couldn’t read his expression as I forced my eyes to stay on his face, rather than letting my gaze stray to his chest or abdomen.

“Alexa,” Deron said, with a hint of exasperation as though he were repeating himself.

I quickly straightened my spine as I turned away from the king to look at Deron.

He gave me a sharp, questioning look. “Do you still agree that we need to increase the watches and guard presence in the palace for as long as the Dansiian party is here?”

“Yes,” I said. My heart beat unsteadily in my chest, but I hoped that my expression remained neutral. “Yes, I do.”

“And where do you suggest we recruit the extra help? The army is already short staffed,” Damian pointed out.

Shortly after being crowned king, Damian had released the orphan boys from their forced enrollment in the army. Many stayed, as they had nowhere else to go, but there was a significant number who had quit, returning to their ravaged villages and homes to try to put the horrors of the war — and Hector’s reign of terror — behind them. Even Nolan, Damian’s former “handler,” had chosen to leave the palace. Damian had done the right thing, letting them choose, but it left Antion with a diminished army.

I answered without looking at the king to see if he was watching me or not, gazing just past him instead. “Now that there is no threat of attack from Blevon, we could pull some of the soldiers assigned to the outer patrols into the city and pull the city patrols into the palace.”

“But that would take weeks, and the Dansiians are almost here,” Deron pointed out.

“There isn’t a threat of attack in Tubatse any longer; those soldiers are helping with rebuilding efforts more than anything,” I said. “If we pulled just one man off each squadron in the city, we could double the watch numbers without impacting the rebuilding efforts significantly.”

Hot Novels
  • Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Chris
  • Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)
  • Never Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #2)
  • Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)
  • Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculi
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)
  • Fallen Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #1)
  • Forever Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #3)
  • Ugly Love
  • Allegiant (Divergent #3)
  • Hold on Tight (Sea Breeze #8)
  • Bared to You (Crossfire #1)
  • The Destiny of Violet & Luke (The Coinc
  • Captivated by You (Crossfire #4)
  • Uprooted