Home > Scarred (Never After #2)

Scarred (Never After #2)
Author: Emily McIntire

 

 

Prologue

 

 

TRISTAN

 

 

Loyalty.

One word. Three syllables. Seven letters.

Zero meaning.

Although, if you listen to my brother’s never-ending speeches, you’d think it runs through his veins thicker than the blood that binds us.

If you listened to gossip in the court, you’d believe the same.

“Prince Michael will make a fine king.”

“Carry on his father’s legacy, that’s to be sure.”

Something thick lodges its spiked edges in my throat, my gaze moving between the roaring flames of the fireplace at the other end of the room and the oil lamp placed in the center of the table; the one occupied by members of the Privy Council. Half a dozen faces and not one of them filled with grief.

My chest pulls.

“Life is about appearances, sire, and for appearance’s sake we must do what needs to be done,” Xander, my father’s—now my brother’s—head adviser, states, his focus on where Michael sits. “Just as it’s known your father passed peacefully in his bed, it’s also known you have quite the… appetite.”

“Xander, please,” I cut in, pressing my back against the wood-paneled wall. “No need to convince us of where my father died.”

My eyes move to my mother, the only woman in the room, as she dabs beneath her hollow brown eyes with a monogrammed handkerchief. Normally she wouldn’t be here in Saxum at all, choosing to spend most of her days in the countryside estate, but seeing as how we’re fresh off the funeral of her husband, Michael insisted she stay.

And his word is law.

“It’s the peaceful part we have to lie about,” I continue, my gaze settling on my brother.

A small smirk pulls at his lips, his amber eyes sparking. A fiery rage surges through my middle and up my throat, wrapping around my tongue; the taste bitter and tart.

My boot smacks the wood as I push off the wall and move toward the center of the room until I’m towering over the table, wedged between my mother and Xander. I take my time, soaking in every single face that sits here as if it’s just another day, their statures stuffed full of pomp and importance.

As if we didn’t just lose someone important.

Someone vital.

The only person left who cared.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” Xander squawks, his voice pinched as he pushes up his horn-rimmed glasses.

I lift my chin as I stare down at him, noting the gray strands peppering his otherwise dark hair. He’s been with the family for years—ever since I was a boy—and at first, he was a treasured person in my life. But life is ever changing, and Xander’s warmth doused quickly with the icy bitterness of greed.

Just like the rest of them.

“Mmm, of course not,” I hum, tapping my finger against my temple. “Silly me.”

“Can we get back to the subject?” Michael huffs, running his hand over his head, the light-brown strands ruffling under his fingers. “How father took his last breath is not what’s important.”

“Michael,” my mother gasps, still dabbing away under her lids.

Spinning until I face her, I lean down, reaching out to wipe her face, the ridge of her cheek hard against my palm. She sucks in a breath as she looks up at me, her eyes shimmering, and I press my thumb into her skin, before pulling away to glance at my hand.

My stomach burns when I realize the pads of my fingers are still dry as a bone.

Actors, all of them.

“Mother,” I tsk. “Stop the dramatics. Any more fake tears and you’ll wrinkle.”

Winking, I pat her cheek and stand up straight, noticing every eye in the room is on us.

It’s no secret there’s no love lost between her and me.

I grin, allowing my lips to peel back from my teeth as I look from one person to the next. The air thins and Lord Reginald, one of the council members, shifts in his velvet-backed chair.

“Relax.” I roll my eyes. “I won’t do anything untoward.”

Lord Reginald scoffs, and my attention falls to him. “Something you’d like to share, Reginald?”

He clears his throat, his cheeks growing ruddy, showcasing the nerves he’s trying so very hard to hide. “You’ll forgive me for not believing you, Tristan.”

I cock my head. “I think you mean Your Highness.”

His mouth purses before he bows his head. “Of course, Your Highness.”

My jaw tics as I take him in. Reginald has always been one of the weakest members of the council; bitter and jealous of everyone else. He attached himself to my brother’s side when they were young, and he stayed through every moment of torture inflicted on me through the years at Michael—and his pack’s—hands.

But I’m no longer a child, and they can’t bully me like they used to.

Xander pinches the bridge of his nose. “Sire, please. You need a wife. Your people need a queen.”

“They have one,” Michael booms, his head nodding toward our mother. “I do not wish to marry.”

“No one is asking you to stop your dalliances.” Xander sighs. “But these laws have been in place for generations. To not take a wife, it will make you look weak.”

“If you’re not up to the duty, brother, by all means, do us a favor and disappear.” I wave my hand through the air.

Michael’s eyes narrow as they snap to mine, the corner of his mouth twisting into a mocking grin. “And leave Gloria Terra to who, you?”

Chuckles burst from around the table, and my muscles tighten beneath the surface of my skin, the urge to show them all just how easily I could make them bow streaming through my insides.

The wooden clock snicks as its long hand moves, drawing my attention away.

It’s nearing supper.

My fingers tense as they run through the disheveled black strands of my hair, and I back up a pace toward the large double oak doors. “Well, this has been a treat,” I start. “But sadly, I’ve grown bored.”

“You’re not dismissed, Tristan,” Michael snaps.

“You do not dismiss me, brother,” I sneer, anger snapping at my chest. “I could not care less about which unfortunate soul will have the torment of you rutting into them for eternity.”

“So disrespectful,” Xander spits, shaking his head. “Your brother is the king.”

A grin spreads across my face and I lock my gaze on Michael’s, anticipation thrumming through my veins.

“Well then.” I incline my head. “Long live the king.”

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

 

Sara B.

 

 

“You’ll leave in the morning.”

My uncle sips on his wine, his dark eyes like arrows soaring across the table and filleting the flesh of my chest. He’s never been an affectionate man, but he’s my family all the same, and we have the same goal.

To seek vengeance on the Faasa family for the murder of my father.

We have slotted many moving pieces carefully into place, ensuring that when the crowned prince was in need, I would be the one there to accept his hand. It’s only been one year since the death of my father, and two since that of the king, but finally, we’ve received word.

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