Please welcome Evelyn Elliott and
Morality is relative. At least that’s what young sorcerer Regis Teller convinces himself. He’s done what he must to survive: working for a witch since he was nine, helping her throw the kingdom into anarchy, and taking his only comfort in her mysterious son, Crow. And soon, Regis is going to commit his first murder.
A do-gooder named Jonathan White has information the witch needs, and it’s Regis’s job to get that information and slit Jonathan’s throat. But then Regis actually meets Jonathan. And Jonathan is perfect—a hero with a passion for justice and little regard for civility.
Lucky for Regis, Jonathan has a weakness for attractive men. Lucky for Jonathan, Regis is fast developing a conscience and a heart. But for Regis, keeping both of them alive at their adventure’s end means breaking a magical oath and surviving his ruthless boss—all without telling Jonathan the truth. Falling in love is never easy, especially when everyone involved is lying through their teeth.
Regis couldn’t breathe around the horror in his chest, the agonizing clench of his insides as Jonathan drew him close and whispered, “The fault is yours, all of it. Regis, I think I love you.”
When Regis was young, he had often anticipated moments such as these. Mostly fantasies where Crow saw the error of his ways, confessed that he was madly in love, and never slept with another man or woman again. It was supposed to be a good moment, the best of his life. Instead, it took an immense act of will not to throttle Jonathan.
Regis pushed Jonathan away. His stomach was a pit of terror. No one had ever told him they loved him before, not in ten years.
Jonathan’s face had gone white. “I’m sorry.”
Regis shook his head. “No, no, it’s fine.”
“It’s all right. Why should you love me, anyway? This is mad, all of it.”
“Oh gods. Even if you had met me a lifetime ago, you couldn’t possibly know me well enough to love me.”
“You don’t,” Regis said. “I know me, and I’m the worst person I can think of.”
“I’m a criminal, Regis. Strictly speaking. What could you have possibly done that would matter to me?”
Regis swallowed a lump in his throat. “I… I swore an oathspell.”
There it was. He felt giddy, terrified. The confession had less of an impact on Jonathan, who only raised his eyebrows. “An oathspell?”
“I swore to kill a man. I don’t even know why. At the time, it seemed like such a small request. I must have been out of my mind.” The words came tumbling out. He had to explain everything before he lost his nerve.
Jonathan cupped Regis’s face between his hands. “Calm down,” he murmured. “Whatever you promised, I’ll help you get out of it.”
“Stop that.” Regis’s voice came out ragged and harsh. He bit back a sob. “Gods. I don’t think I can tell you. I can’t lose this. You’re the first person to even care about me. It’s only been a day since I had you.”
“Regis. Beloved. I won’t hurt you.”
Regis put his head in his hands. Like ripping off a scab, he said, “I’m Belcane’s apprentice.”
He laughed, damn him. Regis shoved himself away. “What’s wrong with you? I work for her! Don’t you know what that means?”
“Calm down, Regis. I guessed ages ago. How else would you have stolen the amulet?”
“Stolen the amulet,” Regis said dumbly.
A long, unbelievable silence.
Regis stared at Jonathan in growing horror. He yanked his hand away, rose to his feet, and began to back up. “You think—you still think I’m on your side.”
Jonathan’s smile faded a little. “I… what?”
“Belcane gave me the amulet,” Regis said. His voice was hard but clinical. Precise. “She said if I woke you, found the queen, and disposed of you, she’d let me go. I didn’t even think about it before accepting. Your life for my freedom. It was obvious, at the time.”
Jonathan’s face was slack now. “Stop. You, you aren’t thinking. There’s no way you….”
“You’re a moonstruck idiot,” Regis said. “Is this what love does to people? Are you blind? Are you deaf? Here, I’ll repeat it: I swore I’d kill you. She wants the queen. You’re the only one who knows where to look. But you’d never help Belcane, not willingly, so she sent me to rescue you. A hero complex like yours, you were bound to help the pretty boy in distress.”
“There’s no way. Your mother—”
“You think I betrayed Belcane before I met you?” Regis said. “I stay my hand now only, only, because I’m a weak, desperate fool, and I love you more than I love myself. A week ago, I didn’t. If the queen had been closer, and if I hadn’t been forced to spend so much time with you—”
He couldn’t say it. The following silence was enough. “You wouldn’t,” Jonathan said. “You would never.”
“I was going to,” Regis said, averting his eyes. “I’m so sorry.”
It was the wrong thing to say. Regis didn’t dare look up to see Jonathan’s expression, and Jonathan had gone entirely silent. Regis began to explain his story. He went from his life with his mother, to his kidnapping, to life with Belcane and the things she expected of him. Of his help with the sleep spell and the oathspell that now bound him. The only thing he left out was Crow.
And Jonathan said nothing, nothing at all.
Finally, Regis stopped. He staggered to his feet, then trudged back to the cave alone. He faced inside and waited for what felt like hours. Then just as he began to wonder if Jonathan had simply left, footsteps approached, then stopped at his back. There came the hiss of a sword unsheathing, then the longest silence of Regis’s life. Frigid steel tapped his collarbone… and held still.
Regis let out the breath he’d been holding. “You aren’t going to kill me. If you were, you would have done it by now. You wouldn’t draw it out like this.”
“I’m still deciding,” Jonathan said.
A heavy pause.
“For ten years,” Jonathan said. He spoke with aching deliberation, as if coming to a decision aloud. “You chose to clean her study, to live under her roof, and to follow her commands. You chose not to run.”
Regis steeled himself, then looked back. Jonathan’s eyes were glassy, his mouth a fine line. His body was taut, his hand white-knuckled around his sword. “This is how it starts,” Jonathan said levelly. “Apathy. Self-interest. Cowardice. I thought you, of all people—” His voice had grown loud. He stopped, took a breath, then continued more quietly. “You seemed different.”
“I am different.”
“That’s all you have to say?” Jonathan’s voice grew steadily in volume. “You used me, helped Belcane, and plotted to depose your own queen! And that’s all you have to say, that you’re different.” He pivoted suddenly, hurling his sword at the ground.
“Shut up. I don’t need a sword to kill you.” Jonathan paced. “Was any of it real? That night at the river, the touches, the…. Ancestors, I’m such an idiot. It was all part of your wretched oath. Chartreuse told me you were hiding something. I could handle you, I told her. She told me that I was a fool, and I ignored her.”
“What? No! It wasn’t like that.”
“Really.” The word had an arch to it. “And I suppose I can take your word for that.”
Regis stumbled to his feet. “You have to believe me. She didn’t ask me to do this to you.” It had been his own sadistic invention. “Jonathan, I—”
Jonathan seized him by the front of the shirt, shoved him against the wall, and snarled, “Hold. Your. Tongue.”
Regis shut his mouth.
“You think I won’t hurt you?” Jonathan said. “You’re dead to me. Everything I knew about you was wrong. Go on, defend yourself. Give me a reason not to kill you.”
“Tell me why you did it. I want to know.”
Regis swallowed. “I… I don’t have a reason. It was mad, all of it. Following her orders seemed natural, and I thought she’d kill me if I didn’t.”
Jonathan let go. “You were afraid, then.”
“You know what she does to people. But that doesn’t excuse what I did. With the queen at stake… I might’ve doomed the whole kingdom to save my own life.”
“But you didn’t. You confessed.”
“For such a petty, pathetic reason. I should’ve confessed because the queen needs help, because Belcane needs to be stopped, because the livelihoods of thousands are at stake. But no, I did it for something as stupid and selfish as my own feelings.” He steeled himself. He shut his eyes. He had to say it before Jonathan killed him. “Jonathan, I love—”
Jonathan lost it. He slammed Regis against the wall and roared, “Give me a reason not to kill you!”
There was nothing to say to that. He could only be held there. Jonathan pressed his face against the crook of Regis’s neck, eyes wet, then shoved away. He grabbed his sword from the front of the cave, then returned, sheathing it. “You will ask nothing of me,” he said. “You will do as I say quickly and quietly. Now move. We’re going to find the amulet.”
Regis watched him storm out of the cave. “Thank you,” he said.
“I told you to shut up,” Jonathan said.
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About the author:
At first glance, Evelyn Elliott seems like a perfectly normal person. Do not be deceived.
Her hobbies include watching grisly horror movies, torturing her characters, and tending to her flower garden. She enjoys long walks on the beach and collecting the souls of small children. Whenever she reads a book, she always roots for the villain.
Avoid her at all costs. Certainly do not find her on facebook or befriend her online. You have better things to do.
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