“They would have killed us. All of us. You saved so many.”
“I killed so many.” My voice snapped back at him, lashing out like a snake. He left his bed and came toward me. I turned and braced myself for his touch, but he stopped before he reached me.
“Yes. You did. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.” His tone was frank. Admiring. I wanted to scream. My fingers curled into fists at my sides.
“I am not a sword.”
“What?” he asked, surprise coloring the word.
“I am not a sword!”
I squeezed my eyes shut against the hot tears that rose immediately. I didn’t want to share any of this with him. But my thoughts were unruly, and he was listening intently.
“I am not a weapon. I don’t want to be a weapon!”
“You are what you are. I am what I am. It matters little what we want.”
“I am not a weapon.” The words were a cry, mournful and resistant. I felt him draw closer, but still he didn’t touch me, and for that I was grateful. If he touched me I would break down.
“I never wanted to be king. But it is what I am. It matters little what we want,” he repeated. I turned and stared up into his face, filled with an anguish that wouldn’t abate.
“You’re wrong. It is the thing that matters most.”
“Why?” he murmured, his eyes intense.
“Because without desire, there is only duty.” My lips trembled, and I bit down on them, bidding them to be still.
He pressed a thumb against my mouth, freeing my lower lip from the grip of my teeth. “Do you desire me?”
I jerked, resisting the coiled need that suddenly sprang from my belly and filled my chest. His eyes flared and his breath caught, and I wondered what I’d given away. I could only guess. I stepped around him, but he caught me up, lifting me off the ground, one arm beneath my hips, one braced around my back. He walked back to the thick furs where he slept and laid me down on them.
“This is not my duty. Or my desire.”
“It is both,” he responded, his arrogance setting my teeth on edge.