Home > Knightfall (Tangled Crowns #1)(5)

Knightfall (Tangled Crowns #1)(5)
Author: Ann Denton


“What happened to you?” she put a hand to her chest in mock horror. Or maybe it was real horror. For a woman who’d only ever worn silk, perhaps a woolen dress was horrific. Still, she was only asking to satisfy her own nosy curiosity. Not out of any concern for me.

“My husband and I were just copulating in a field. You should try it sometime.” I winked at her as Quinn jerked me up the stairs.

He didn’t give me enough time to enjoy the way her jaw dropped down like a door with a broken hinge.

But I did hear him mutter, I hope your mother thinks you’re as funny as you do.

I met his eyes as two servants opened the double doors to the castle.

“Don’t worry. She won’t.”

Quinn kept a death grip on my wrist as he led me to the right, not to the main throne room, but to a minor receiving room used for groups of foreign dignitaries. Still pretentious. It still held five thrones on a raised platform. But it was a smaller, more intimate level of pretension.

The room was empty.

Quinn halted in the middle of the room and stood silently under the main chandelier. He didn’t go to the bell-pull to ring for servants. He didn’t call for anyone to come. He must have assumed that the gossip from the courtyard would ensure my mother and sister found us. Not to mention, my three other husbands.

I sighed. Husbands. That was the lie my mother had put out when I’d run. That we’d all secretly married, and they’d secured their positions as my knights. It had been whispered about that we’d been too eager to wait for the formal ceremony. What with the threat of dragons looming and my intention to seek out and kill the last of the monsters … that last bit had dulled any gossip about my impropriety.

Why my queen mother had invented the lie instead of simply handing my husband group off to my sister and declaring her the crown princess immediately, I didn’t know.

“So, what are you gonna do about all those rumors that I was off hunting some made up foreign dragons?” I tried the conversational approach with Quinn.

It didn’t work. He didn’t even look at me.

Unlike before, when at least I felt tension rolling off him, felt him give in to the thrill of the chase, there was nothing. It was like I was talking to a big, grey stone wall.

Fine. Sard you, too, I thought. Until I realized that he might have been waiting for me to apologize.

It might end up the only moment I ever had with him alone. The palace was always full of eyes and ears and I’d rarely gotten a moment’s privacy growing up.

Was that why he didn’t call anyone?


I at least owed him an apology. I was sure he hadn’t wanted the match either. To be told two days before a wedding? Even if the bride came with a crown, that was a lot to take in.

I sighed. “You know when I left, it had nothing to do with—”

“You’re back!” Avia strode into the room, her skirts sweeping over the mosaic floor, her face as hard and brittle as iron. Four years had changed her. My sister wasn’t the gawky little twelve-year-old I remembered. She was sixteen. She looked taller. Leaner. And she had bags under her eyes so deep they could have been craters.


She pulled the crown off her head. My crown. The crown she’d been forced to wear after I’d run. She studied the rainbow array of gems. Then she flicked her wrist. The crown flew at me, smacking me in the chest.

I took a step back as it rolled on the floor and Quinn stopped it with his foot.

“Take it. And them,” she snarled gesturing behind me. She grabbed her red skirts and swept out of the room before I could respond.

She was a little bit angry with me.

Understandable. I can handle that, I told myself.

I turned. Behind me were the three other men I’d been promised to. The men I’d abandoned.

Their gazes were cold, hard, and unforgiving.

Even Connor’s.

My childhood best friend, my first kiss, my first love, Connor stared at me the way I’d seen him stare at my mother.

It almost looked like anger and disgust warred beneath his blue-green eyes.

That stung. And not a little. It stung like I’d walked into a hornet’s nest. Which, perhaps I had.

I shrunk back. I knew I’d missed sending that last dove to him, but I’d sent so many before. I’d written him nearly every month of my absence. Sometimes more. He’d never written back, but obviously, I hadn’t expected him to. The palace was full of eyes and I didn’t exactly ever provide a location. But I didn’t expect the vitriol from him. Not from my sweetling.

Connor mussed his brown curls and shook his head at Quinn, as if asking why the spy master had bothered to bring me home. Then he turned and stalked to a shadowed corner of the room, outside my line of sight.

That dismissal pulverized my heart, smashed it into tiny little bits of dust.

Connor! I cried out in my head.

But I hadn’t been raised to be queen for nothing. I kept a mask of calm on my face. And turned to face the other two men.

Ryan was a tall, dark-skinned god of war. Some women at the inn had liked to compare men to drinks of well water. “He’s a half-dipper.” Or “he’s a sludgy sip.” Most of the comparisons were insults. But once in a while, they’d say a man was a sweet sip of ale. Frothy and fizzy and fun at night. If they’d have seen Ryan … he would have been a glass of wine. His looks made women sway like drunks.

He had deep chocolate eyes, lashes women would kill for, and a goatee. The man was also six foot five and stacked. His muscles had muscles. Part of his heritage as a part-giant, I suppose. Giants were known for their strength. Ryan’s human side accounted for his brains. And with the combination, it was no wonder he’d worked his way up to be a general in the Evaness army.

Before I’d run, I used to sneak into the back of the practice arena and watch him from the shadows with my lady-in-waiting. He had always practiced without a shirt. And when I’d been a gawky teenager, he’d already been in his mid-twenties. He was eight years older than me. He’d been the cause of my sopping underthings on more than one occasion.

We hadn’t really known each other. He’d been called out on patrols, or to supervise the borders, or whatever else. I’d been stuck inside the palace. And eight years was a lot when I was eighteen. I hadn’t known what to say to him. Ever.

I discreetly scanned Ryan as he glared at me with crossed arms. He stood in his traditional breeches and boots. He’d clearly just tossed on a white shirt as he’d come in from the practice yard. Four years hadn’t diminished his physique. If anything, he looked bigger. Definitely meaner. Or maybe that was simply the emotion he hurled at me.

“Why are you here?” he got right to the point.

Of course, he would. Ryan had never been one for niceties. That had been Connor. Ryan was more likely to punch you than talk through issues.

Of course, he was also a bit of a braggart. Before I’d left I’d heard talk he’d gotten my name tattooed onto his body after we’d been intimate.

I stared into his brown eyes as memory of that lie flared.

“I came to check on your tattoo, darling.”

“Frigid witch,” he stormed forward and yanked me away from Quinn.

He pulled me up against him, and though I could feel the violence shimmering in the air, I also felt the heat of his body and see the beads of sweat pouring down his muscles from whatever workout my arrival had interrupted.

His scent made my throat go dry. It was wood shavings and male musk. If he’d been a god of sex, I’m pretty sure I would have volunteered to be a virgin sacrifice.

But he wasn’t. He was a man who led our army and dealt out death in daily doses to the kingdoms nearest.

My stupid female hormones would do well to remember that, I scolded myself as my feet dangled in midair.

“Why the hell are you back, Bloss? Why now?” he growled.

I licked my lips. “I came to warn Avia.”

Ryan dropped me. I fell onto my crown. It stabbed me in the hip.


Not one of the men moved when I cried out.

I deserved that.

I pushed the crown aside, leaving it on the floor. I wasn’t here for it, anyway.

“I overheard a plot to kill my sister.”

My eyes flickered from one man to the next. Their only response was silence, though Ryan’s chest heaved like he wanted to attack me.

“A plot?” he scoffed.

“Yes. They are planning to send a beast after Avia. The group was after me. So was Quinn. I thought him the lesser evil. So I let him catch me.”

The men’s eyes flicked to Quinn and he nodded, then shrugged.

I didn’t know what the shrug was about. Or why he didn’t speak.

Judging by the gleam in his eye, he was getting a kick out of watching the awkward hatred in play.

No one said anything after my statement, and my eyes finally landed on my last husband.

Declan McCarthy was a halfling. Half-human, half-fae. He was the bastard son of the Sedarian queen. She’d had him when her husbands were all abroad with the navy. No one knew exactly who his father was, or what type of fae he was, other than powerful. And too sarding smart. He used to speak like he was a walking book, with long sentences and technical words that could put me to sleep in an instant. Originally, Declan had been sent over to minimize the bastard child’s interaction with the real heirs to Sedara’s throne. But his adeptness had caught my mother’s eye. Helped him make her list.

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