TheKingsViper by Janine Ashbless

Book: TheKingsViper by Janine Ashbless Read Free Book Online
Authors: Janine Ashbless
safe—you must understand that. I have to get you back home.” He
reached out and laid one hand on her shoulder.
    “Don’t touch me.” She tried to shrug off his hand, but he
wouldn’t let her and that made her scared. “Don’t touch me,” she repeated,
twisting in his grip to face him. “You’re not allowed to touch me!” Then she
hit him across the face.
    He was so surprised that he took a half-step back, releasing
her. Fire surged in her blood. She hit at him again; this time he blocked the
blow. She struck with the other hand. He didn’t try to grab her, he just parried
anything aimed at his eyes or throat, knocking her hands away, so she gave up
and struck at his chest and stomach, balling her fists and putting all the
strength of her arms into each punch. He took several of those, deliberately,
though she was trying her best to hurt him. The rage seemed to come from deep,
deep within, from a place she didn’t even know. “Don’t touch me!” she screamed,
tears running down her face. “I hate you!”
    He grabbed her bodily and pulled her to him, pinning her
arms. He was far too strong for her to resist.
    “I can’t even hurt you, you bastard!” she spat into his
    “Can’t you?” he gasped.
    “I hate you! I hate what you are, you cold-hearted whoreson!
I don’t want that! I don’t want to go back to that!” Her words came out in great
wet sobs. “I don’t want to go to Kingsholme, I don’t want to have people
killed, and lie and betray and fear everyone—I don’t want to turn into what you
are! I don’t want to be Queen!”
    He stared down into her twisted face—and at that moment she
felt the rock shift beneath their feet. Severin turned and flung himself up
toward the bank top, Eloise in one arm, and grabbed with the other hand for
purchase. The stone turned to empty air under their toes. He seized a low
branch, but the tree lurched and tilted as its roots were exposed, and he
leaped again for the next foothold. Their boulder and all the bank below it,
undermined by river and rain, was falling. She saw the earth rise before her
eyes as they crashed face forward into the dirt, sliding. He grabbed at an
exposed root and held on with all his might as sand poured into their faces
from above. Eloise was crushed to his ribs, arms and legs flailing. Small
stones bounced off her head. They heard the rocks smacking into the stream
below, and then the water swallowed the stones and rushed on, and there was
peace again in the ravine.
    Eloise opened her eyes and blinked away grit. She was slung
under Severin’s arm, her face crushed to his armpit. Severin’s toes scuffed the
exposed earth of the bank-face, seeking purchase. All his weight—and hers—was
hanging off his other shoulder. Overhead, the pines leaned, seeming to leer
down on them, their branches far out of reach.
    She desperately hoped the root he was holding onto was
strong enough to take their weight.
    “Climb up!” he gasped.
    Eloise could feel his grip on her slipping. Working her
hands free, she dug her fingers desperately into the loose bank, but the sand
and pebbles just crumbled under her nails, slick as scree. “I can’t get a
    “Climb up me!”
    It was cruel, but it worked better. She could dig her
fingers into his muscles and find purchase for her shoes on his feet and
thighs. Grunting with effort, he pushed as she pulled, boosting her until she
could catch at the root zone over her head and scramble over the lip to safety.
She collapsed on her back on the hard earth, coughing dust and heaving for
breath. All the rage had gone out of her, riding her fear into the empty air,
leaving her feeling exhausted and alone.
    But once he had two hands free, Severin could catch his
breath and follow. First his hands, then his head, then his chest emerged, then
she watched him haul himself up over the edge and crawl over to straddle her on
his knees, propping himself on his fists. Stifling her last cough, she

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