Excerpt Scarlet was no fool, and Hilurin have a deep-seated respect for secrets and privacy. Scarlet had known all along that there was much Liall was keeping from him. He had, in his forthright way, simply expected Liall to be honest with him in his own time, except that time never seemed to come.
Liall tried to take his hand, but Scarlet pulled away.
"No," Scarlet said. Not snapping like before, but with listless anger. Scarlet hid his hands in his pockets, and that tore at Liall's heart.
"Scarlet," Liall implored, trying to reach him with his voice. There were too many eyes on them, and the queen looked more distressed than ever. Liall looked after Vladei, wanting very much to follow his step-brother and pound his face into a pulp. He saw Vladei standing with Shikhoza near the queen's table, and they seemed to be arguing. Cestimir was at the queen's side, glaring at Vladei and casting worried looks in Liall's direction.
Vladei and Shikhoza's heads were bent close together in conversation, and Vladei was twisting his rings again. Shikhoza gestured angrily and said something, her red lips twisted in a sneer, and Vladei smiled unpleasantly. She shook her head and left him, and Vladei went back to staring at Scarlet in that mocking way of his.
Liall took Scarlet's arm. "Come with me." Liall pulled him when he would not come, almost dragging the Scarlet into a corner of the hall, behind a carved panel where they were less on display.
Scarlet struggled. "Let me go!"
"I will, just as soon –"
"Damn it, you're hurting me!"
Liall released him immediately. Scarlet rubbed his upper arm and stared at Liall with an angry flush of shame brightening his cheeks.
"My t'aishka," Liall soothed.
"I'm not your anything," Scarlet flung back, as if he were deliberately trying to hurt Liall.
"You do not mean that."
Scarlet wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, and Liall saw that he was sweating. "Stop telling me what I mean, what I think. Did you ever once ask me if I was your Scarlet? You talk about me to your servants as if I'm not in the room. You say I'm yours, that I belong to you, like something you own, your cup or your chair, but you never once asked me if I wanted to be owned. I've had enough of this."
Cold dread gripped Liall's stomach. Love is such a fragile thing. It hangs by a thread most of the time. "Of what?"
"Of lies and half-lies, of sneering Rshani nobility."
"They do not dare to—"
"I mean you, Nazheradei. I'm tired of you."
Liall was stricken, as if Scarlet had slapped him or betrayed him with another. Somewhere in his mind, he heard that thread stretched to snap. "You wish to leave me?"