Home > From The Grave (The Arcana Chronicles #6)

From The Grave (The Arcana Chronicles #6)
Author: Kresley Cole





The Empress

Day 587 A.F.

Castle Lethe



I watched the drive long after there was no sign of Jack, the love of my life. I watched until my tears had frozen on my cheeks. I tightened the tourniquet around my heart once more, knowing that one day it would break, and I would bleed out in the snow.

Or worse.

But if he could sacrifice for Tee, the nickname he’d given my unborn son, so could I. Stemming my tears, I turned back toward the castle.

My soul mate, the father of my baby, awaited me there. I had a relationship to repair, alliances to rebuild, and a home to defend.

As certain as I felt that I’d see Jack again, I was even more sure the game was spinning to a bloody end.

I’d be ready.

—Empresssss.— A whisper in my ear like a breath of frost. The Fool was contacting me through our mental link.

I drew up short. I’ve been waiting for you to answer me. I plumbed my emotions. How did I feel about my former ally now?

Torn. I’d missed him, and I owed him for saving Jack from those slavers. I owed him for helping free Aric from the Hanged Man. But Matthew had also allowed awful things to happen to our friends.

To Finn . . .

—Do you know what you really want? I see far, Empress.—

Then tell me what’s to come.

—The gods vent their wrath. The Minors unite. Hell on earth. Quakes. They’ll all be coming for you.—

Out loud, I said, “Let them come.” My claws sharpened. The scent of roses steeped the frigid air.


“Matthew, I finally understand what you’ve wanted me to learn all along.” I glanced down at my hand, marked with the icons of fallen Arcana, then back at the lonely road Jack now traveled through the never-ending darkness. In that breathy, evil voice—the red witch’s voice—I said, “For better or for worse, anyone who touches me pays a price.” I headed inside.

As I reached the front door, he whispered —Do you trust me?— Had his tone held a tinge of menace?

Just when the thought arose, he showed me a vision of the two of us lying together after Jack, Selena, and I had rescued him from his flooded home. Matthew and I had become fast friends, but then we’d been so in past games.

He severed our mental link, the quiet hitting me like the silence after a drum stopped resonating.

Did I trust him? Good question. One I didn’t yet have an answer for.

I paused before I entered the castle. By the light of the flickering lantern, the repaired doors looked like Frankenstein’s monster—ghastly but solid. Months ago, Death had kicked down those doors to get to me, to kill me.

Block it out. Inside, I found him pacing the foyer.

He stopped short, facing me. “Please, come in.”

“I thought you were in your study.” His uneasiness was palpable. “Did you worry I might take off with Jack?”

He swallowed. Nodded.

“I considered it.”

“What made you stay?”

I told him honestly, “The same thing that would have made me go: love.”

His blond brows drew together and he started toward me, but I held up my hand. “I’ll need time to get used to things again.”

He stopped abruptly. “Of course. Is your rose scent for me?”

“No. I got a message from Matthew that pissed me off.” But I preferred anger to my sadness over Jack leaving.

“What did the Fool tell you?”

When my stomach growled loudly, I said, “It’s nothing that won’t keep for now.”

“Come. Let’s get you fed.” As we turned toward the kitchen, he placed his palm on the small of my back, then dropped it, clenching his fist.

To fill the ensuing silence, I said, “I can’t believe I have any appetite considering I strangled a man to death tonight.” We’d vanquished Paul, the Hanged Man, but the monsters would just keep coming. When could I rest at last?

“You eliminated a murderer.” He glanced down at my arm. “How is your injury?”

Paul’s bullet had gone through and through. My sluggish regeneration hurt like hell, but I put on a brave face. “Almost as good as new.”

Arriving in the kitchen, we rummaged for dinner.

“I regret the limited offerings,” Aric said, adding darkly, “the Hanged Man promoted himself out of the service field.”

I unearthed a frozen casserole. “This looks fine to me,” said the girl who’d eaten canned cat food out in the Ash.

“Sit and allow me. You must be exhausted.”

“And you’re not?” He’d ridden for days with no sleep to reach me and Jack on the coast in Jubilee. I popped the dish into the microwave. “How do you know Paul didn’t poison this?” It wouldn’t affect me, but Tee . . . ?

“When Paul convinced me that you had tainted the food, I had Lark scent every item in our stores. After he took control, he wouldn’t have compromised his own supplies.”

I nodded, satisfied. They’d eaten here for months without incident. As Aric and I sat at the table to wait, I said, “I’ll be able to take over in the kitchen. I did in Jubilee.”

“I can help. You seemed . . . uncomfortable cooking before.”

“Just rusty. Speaking of nourishment, did Lark’s wolves finish up Paul’s body?” The three giant creatures had fanged him apart in the study, spraying blood over Aric’s priceless relics.

I was conflicted about that pack. Like Lark, it’d been under Paul’s control, but I didn’t think I’d ever be comfortable sleeping with Cyclops in the bed again.

Yet another thing the Hanged Man had stolen from me. Cyclops, with his heightened intelligence, had been my favorite of all the many animals here.

“They did,” Aric said. “I believe they also ate the noose.”

“I’m glad. I never wanted to see it again.” The red witch did; my murderous alter ego would’ve worn it as a boa and preened about her kill. But that facet of me—with her red hair and thorn claws—had subsided again. For how long? “Do you think Lark will be all right?” Finn’s death was hitting her for the first time, and she’d asked for space. “Did Paul physically hurt her?”

“He didn’t. Yet after he forced her to cremate Finn’s body, she deteriorated quickly.”

I imagined her gut-wrenching pain, would do whatever I could to help her recover from it. . . .

After Aric and I had eaten—I devoured my share, while he pushed food around his plate—we sat at the table drinking decaf tea he’d made.

“What did Matthew tell you tonight?” he asked.

Over the rim of my cup, I said, “After predicting hell on earth, he said that the gods vent their wrath, and the Minors are uniting. He warned that they’ll all be coming for me.”

Though the Minors weren’t supposed to directly interfere with the Majors, each suit favored a particular card to win. The Cups had pulled for Circe—before I’d killed them all.

Had that only been four nights ago? My murder rate was escalating.

And now the other Minors must be looking for payback.

“You said the Pentacles are running the Sick House.” Aric rubbed his chin, rasping his golden stubble. “Did you hear anything about the Swords and the Wands?”

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