GODS. I’M AN IDIOT.
Without Griffin—and apparently a few meddling Gods—to push me along, I’d still be telling fortunes at the circus, lying about my past, ignoring my future, and living as far away from my tyrant mother as humanly possible.
True understanding thuds into place. Hope isn’t just an abstract concept; it’s me. Flesh and blood me. Griffin knew it all along. Probably everyone did. I’m an idea in human form._
I have the power of the Gods at my fingertips.
The only thing ever stopping me has been me.
In anticipation of the final installment of the series, Heart on Fire, Amanda Bouchet has written this companion piece from Griffin’s POV!
What Happened in Velos Stays in Velos…
Griffin watched Cat figure out their location from only architectural clues and the fact that there was a nearby forest. The way she put things together using a knowledge base most people didn’t possess amazed him.
“How do you know so much about Velos?” he asked, curious. “The circus travels a route farther to the west.”
“I’ve met people, heard things,” she answered with a small shrug.
Annoyance ground against his earlier admiration. Cat knew the truth—always—and yet she lied to him constantly. He could see it in her face, knew when she was hiding something. He wanted what was best for Sinta. Griffin was convinced that Cat did, too, but for them to start making changes happen, he had to break through her animosity first. Sometimes, he saw flashes of something else in her when she forgot to guard her expression, something that made his chest clench. Maybe there was still hope.
“Help me, Cat,” he said, trying not to sound like he was begging. Weakness wouldn’t go over well with her. She responded negatively to force—that much was clear—but she respected strength. “Or at least tell me the truth. I know when you’re lying.”
“Oh?” She looked like her last meal was abruptly curdling in her stomach.
“Your eyes get twitchy.”
“My eyes do not get twitchy!” she spat back, clearly horrified.
Did she really not know? She had so many tells, but he almost felt like he was alone in seeing them. No one else seemed to notice every nuance of her breath and skin.
“This one gets narrower.” Griffin lightly touched the tip of his finger to the corner of her right eye. Cat jolted at the contact. He wasn’t sure if that brought him satisfaction or regret. Maybe it was some of both. He couldn’t figure out a lot of things when it came to Cat, but he knew his own heart and body. They didn’t lie to him. He cared about her deeply; he wanted her madly.
“It’s as if you’re expecting the lie to hurt, but it doesn’t because it’s your own,” he explained.
Still looking like there was a sour grape in her mouth, she leaned away from him and
started walking again. “Thank you for telling me. I’ll have to work on that,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Cat…” he growled, stalking after her. “Everything would be so much easier if—”
“—you let me go.”
Griffin shook his head. “I can’t. You’re too valuable.”
“Aren’t you the lucky despot? The one who caught the Kingmaker. Forgive me for not being overjoyed about becoming your slave.”
“Not a slave.” Impulsively, he reached out and grabbed her arm, swinging her back to him. “One of us.”
Cat wrenched out of his hold, looking more than incredulous. She looked furious, her mesmerizing green eyes practically on fire.
Gods, he wanted to shake her. Kiss her. Make her believe him. It should have been obvious to her of all people that he was telling the truth.
Once again, the fact that he’d dragged her unwillingly from her home punched Griffin in the stomach, making his gut twist. What in the bloody Underworld had he been thinking? His logic and reason had seemed to melt in the heat between them and then abandon him entirely when they’d really begun interacting. In the end, he’d just known she had to be with him. They had to be together.
He inwardly grimaced. As far as choices went about how to make that happen, though, there were undoubtedly better ones. And now he was paying. Cat was making sure of it—as she should.
“I’ll never be one of you,” she bit out with enough conviction to almost convince him.
Griffin dragged a hand through his hair, tugging it back. “You’re too stubborn for your own good.”
She glared at him. She was something fierce.
Emotion tore through his chest. Would she ever forgive him?
The five of them—Beta Team, Cat, and him—eventually reached the market rows, and Griffin pulled four silver coins from his money pouch.
Flynn’s eyes brightened as he rubbed his hands together. “Payday!”
Flynn, Carver, and Kato each took the coin Griffin owed them, leaving one in the palm of his hand.
“Cat.” Griffin extended the coin to her, an uncomfortable hesitancy making his heart pound. “Your pay.”
As he expected, Cat refused the money. He wouldn’t push her. He wasn’t out to prove she was part of their team with one gesture. It was a long-term effort, one that meant a great deal to him.
He put the coin away. “I’ll hold it for you. I know what you want. You complain about it often enough.”
She looked up sharply, and then her eyes narrowed. Did she like it when he teased her?
Cat moved along next to him while he bought her some fruit he thought she would like as well as some bread and cheese. Not goat cheese. He knew better than that. Griffin tried to keep the rope from pulling taut, but it wasn’t always easy. He hated to remind her it was there. Not that she ever forgot. He just didn’t want to make things worse between them.
He located a soap seller next and tried to find something nice-smelling to replace Cat’s shrinking bar. He’d been using hers, and there wasn’t much left.
The turn of his thoughts reminded him of bathing so close to her, only a few feet apart. Gods, he wished he could see her. Just a glimpse. Just the slope of her bare shoulder while her hair was slicked back and water slid down the column of her throat…
Taking a deep breath, Griffin tried to control the jagged, unsatisfied heat prowling through him like a caged beast.
Cat rolled her eyes. “You’re worse than a woman. Just take the yellow one. It’s always the best.”
He reached for a block of bright-yellow soap, picked it up, and sniffed. “Lemon.” He closed his eyes and inhaled again, imagining breathing against Cat’s smooth skin. “Smells like you.”
“And you,” she shot back, her color rising. “My soap should have lasted another month.”
Ignoring the bite in her tone and doing his best to redirect his blood to his brain, Griffin handed over payment to the vendor. “We’ll take two,” he said in a voice like gravel.
“There is no we,” Cat muttered irritably as they continued down the row of market stalls. “Don’t act like I have a say in any of this.”
Now that wasn’t true. Griffin turned, frustrated again. Yes, he’d willingly pay for his highhanded stupidity. He’d pay forever if it kept Cat with him, but short of letting her go just to watch her walk away from him, from Sinta, and from everything they could accomplish together, he’d give her anything she asked for. And she damn well knew it.
“You could have a say,” he growled at her. “And you could bloody well choose your own soap!”
“I did! I told you to take the yellow one.”
“And I did!” Cursing under his breath, Griffin stalked toward the next vendor, somehow forgetting about the magic rope. The bloody thing pulled taut, and he accidentally jerked Cat right into someone who suddenly stumbled in from the side. The man looked innocuous enough, but off-balance and dazed. High from some spell, no doubt.
Griffin was about to intervene when Cat gasped and reached out to the stranger with a visible shudder. Her face lit up as she grabbed the man’s shoulders and pulled him even closer.
Griffin scowled. What in the Underworld was she up to now?
“Cat?” Griffin stepped closer to her. “Cat! What are you doing?”
Laughing, she finally released the stunned-looking man. She turned and stumbled straight into Griffin, sucking in a sharp breath when he caught her bare arms to steady her. Her eyes flared, then softened.
“You’re pink!” She giggled, the sound seeming strange and unnatural coming from her.
Griffin frowned, which apparently made her laugh harder. Her eyes unfocused, Cat splayed her hand over his chest. He thought it was for balance. She probably wouldn’t have touched him otherwise. He still reveled in the warm, light weight of her fingers. He’d longed to have her hands on him.
Cat stared at his chest. She seemed fascinated. She slowed her breathing to match his.
“Poseidon’s balls! What in the Underworld did you do to me?” The man who’d stumbled into Cat didn’t look dazed anymore; he looked infuriated.
Cat blinked. She blinked again, tilting her head to one side. She stayed right next to Griffin, her hand still on his chest.
The man staggered, fighting tremors and hiccupping down a series of short, disjointed breaths. His overly lean, unhealthy frame spoke of dependence and bad choices. Griffin tensed in case the addict got any stupid ideas about accosting Cat—who had clearly done something to him with her magic.
“That dose was supposed to last all day!” the man snarled. “I paid good silver for it. Give it back!” He lunged at Cat.
Griffin wrapped his arm around Cat’s waist and swept her out of the man’s path. The addict howled, and she laughed, leaning into Griffin in a way that warmed his entire side. Enraged, the addict drew a knife and waved it in Cat’s direction, a crazed light sparking in his already frantic eyes.
No one threatened Cat. Griffin shot out his hand and knocked the knife from the other man’s grip. It wasn’t hard; the addict already shook. He had no intention of stopping there. He leapt forward and wrapped his hand around the man’s throat. He held on to Cat as well. There was no way he was letting her go.
Her gaze bright, almost rapt, Cat stared fixedly at Griffin’s arm until he tossed the man to the ground. Kato, Flynn, and Carver formed a perimeter, keeping everyone else away and the addict in. Cat clapped and smiled, wiggling in apparent delight.
“Dose of what?” Griffin demanded in a hard voice. He needed to know what was wrong with her, and he needed to know now.
Cat shivered, and he couldn’t help gripping her tighter. He was self-aware enough to know he didn’t pull her closer solely for her protection.
Banking on sheer intimidation as the best way to handle the addict, Griffin drew a
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author AMANDA BOUCHET grew up in New England and studied French at the undergraduate and graduate levels, first at Bowdoin College and then at Bowling Green State University. She moved to Paris, France, in 2001 and has been there ever since. She met her husband while studying abroad, and the family now includes two bilingual children, who will soon be correcting her French. Connect with her at www.amandabouchet.com.