The Cold King(72)

By: Amber Jaeger

The pain twisted and dug into his chest and face and he sobbed while Calia helplessly watched him writhe in pain. It went on forever, for both of them.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she said over and over again and even in his agony he wanted to comfort her.

She threw her arms around him, as if to protect him and the pain began to lift. As it eased he moved to return her embrace and found himself free of pain for the first time in three hundred years.

With cautious fingers he touched his face. It was smooth, still unnaturally smooth, but painless. He blinked his eyes and there was no pain there either. He ripped his shirt way from his chest and found the skin as scarred as it had always been.

Calia was staring as well and slowly moved her eyes up to meet his.

“What do you see?” he demanded, not believing his own eyes.

“I see a man,” she said with deep smile.

“And my scars?”

“They are still there.” She hesitantly reached a finger out to trace the edge of one. “I don’t understand, what has happened?”

The king looked at her in wonder. “You did it. You broke the curse.”

She shook her head. “It’s not broken, the scars are still there.”

“But the pain is gone. Three hundred years of agony and now it has been lifted. You broke the curse.”

Calia frowned. “It wasn’t me.”

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close again. “It was your love,” he insisted and felt her shake her head against his chest.

“If that were true the spell would have been broken months ago.”

He smiled into her hair. “That long?” Then he pulled back. “But then what broke it, if not your love? I’ve searched for the cure for three hundred years…”

Calia tipped her head up to look at him. “You abandoned your vanity and freed your slaves all in one morning. Perhaps that had something to do with it,” she hinted.

“Ah,” he said, seeing her point. “So it was you.”

She made to argue but he put a finger against her mouth. “You have made me realize some very ugly things about myself. But you also made me realize I wanted to be a man again, even if I would remain an ugly, cursed one who would never be worthy of you.” He ran his hands through her hair before cupping her cheeks. “You have given me more than I ever dreamed of.”

“And what will you do now that you have everything you desire?” she asked quietly.

His face grew solemn and his hands slid down to her shoulders. “I don’t have everything, not if you don’t stay.”

“And what shall I be to you? Your servant? Your play thing?”

“No. My wife, my family, my everything.”

She smiled and reached up to run a hand along his cheek. “Only if you promise to burn every last one of those masks.”

The king laughed and kissed the top of her head. “As you command, my queen.”

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